We are firing on all cylinders at Camp Takajo, and this was perhaps our most active day of the season. Picture perfect skies and temperatures in the eighties provided the perfect backdrop for the action-packed day. Our Warrior Braves (finished third grade) departed after breakfast for their first group trip to Seacoast Adventure Center, where they enjoyed an awesome day playing mini golf, going down tube rides, and a special treat, stopping at McDonald’s for lunch.
Takajo hosted five camps at our annual climbing competition, and our boys performed beautifully, scaling our wall against healthy competition. Some of our twelve-year-olds participated in a round-robin soccer tournament at a neighboring camp. Other twelve-year-olds stayed home at Takajo and hosted another soccer tournament on our turf. Our fourteen-and-under hockey team took their talents on the road and competed away. The thirteen- and fifteen-and-under tennis players, who have not had a chance to play in a tennis invitational yet this summer, had the opportunity to participate in a tennis tournament all throughout the day. Our fifteen-and-under football team took to the gridiron and competed in a physical, round-robin football tournament, which for many was the thrill of their summer.
On this bright, sunny day accompanied by a cool breeze, our golfers took to the links, where they played eighteen holes at Point Sebago Resort, a beautiful course only five miles from camp, which recently held the Maine Open Golf Championship.
Our fourteen-year-old boys took a hot shower, slapped on some cologne, and made their way to Camp Vega for dinner before heading north to settle on the banks of the Kennebec River. They will meet up with the ladies of Camp Vega early tomorrow morning to enjoy a full day of white water rafting.
Over the last few days, I have had some wonderful, constructive conversations with a few anxious parents. Admittedly, it is challenging for a parent to glean substantial information about their son’s experience when their only real contact is an occasional letter or phone call. As parents, we often want to try to control and guide our children. With the best of intentions, we are often handicapping them from mastering the skills they will require later in life.
I recently had a conversation with a camp mother who was concerned about her son making connections in camp. She was somewhat insistent that we create a special program for her son, take him out of the activities that make him feel insecure, and allow him to only participate in the activities that he enjoys. At first consideration, this makes perfect sense.
No one likes to be out of their comfort zone and look awkward in front of their peers. However, by removing a child from his peers and isolating him to focus solely on the activities of his choice, we run the risk of preventing a child from mastering very important skills he will need later in his life.
Boys make connections by doing, not by talking or watching. When boys are engaged and active, they feel connected to the group, regardless of one’s skill level. An active boy develops self-confidence. In turn, he will then be more willing to leave his “comfort zone” and take healthy risks. Experiencing new situations and activities lead to learning how to succeed outside of our comfort zones and is an important tool our children will surely value as well-adjusted adults.
As adults, we are faced to challenge our own insecurities every day. Whether it’s making a presentation at a business meeting or walking into an uncomfortable social event; if this puts you outside your comfort zone, it can be incredibly awkward. When parents advocate for their sons to avoid unfamiliar activities, the parents are doing what they believe is in their sons’ best interest. In fact, they are removing their son from what I refer to as a healthy struggle.
Clearly, our mission at camp is not to put children in uncomfortable situations, but I believe our boys make better connections by performing as part of a group or team and not by avoidance or spectating. The Takajo program allows our campers to participate in a wide variety of activities with boys of their own developmental level. Our hope is that by having children participate in a multitude of activities, they will gain new skills, confidence, and stronger connections with their friends.