June 28, 2019

Tour Day!

Today is the day when our campers tour every activity in camp to meet the instructors, find out the safety rules and what to bring to the activity, and have some fun getting to know the instructors. Every camper also does their swim test, visits the doctor in the Med Lodge, gets checked for lice by the Lice Squad, gets their cabin picture taken and visits me or Mara (Assistant Director, my daughter) in my cabin to talk and reflect on what they each need in order to feel emotionally safe in their cabin – their camp family.

I was in the middle of one of those cabin social safety meetings when I got a radio call from Max (Assistant Director, my son) that they needed Mara or me for support on the Boys Swim Dock. Mara took over the cabin social safety talk and I hurried to the Boys Swim Dock. There were a few 8 year old Junior Boys who were refusing to get into the water for the swim test. I managed to convince two of the three to get in and swim.

But the third boy sat on the dock, eyes downcast, and steadfastly refused. His cabin-mates surrounded him and said they would get in again to swim with him to support him. Two of them said they’d give him their candy tuck all summer if he swam. Big offers from 8 year old boys! Super sweet. But it didn’t help. The little boy said no,  he wasn’t doing it. I asked if he wanted to be brave and he said no. So then I asked him a bunch of questions about whose choice it was, who had the power, and who got to make this decision. To all those questions he answered that it was his choice and he had the power.

My intuition was that he had felt disempowered by all the pressure, and that feeling empowered might assist him. After he made clear that he knew he had the power, I said to him: “I’m walking away now.” I turned my back and walked away – in order to telegraph to him that he was on his own with HIS decision. I walked to the other side of the dock and suddenly heard whoops and hollers of joy. I looked around: The staff were cheering! He was in the water swimming!! He had stood up and jumped in after I walked away!! All his friends then jumped in with him. I was wearing clothes, but the moment demanded it, so I jumped in too, and together, we all did the swim test. After we got out, I asked the little boy if he was proud of himself. With a big grin he said yes.

Just another reminder of the great joy to be found when we support children to find their power and agency, and they experience a triumph. Such is camp on Tour Day.

yours from where the loons call  and the moose munch,

Joanne Kates

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