Senior Olympics at Camp Takajo began with Senior Group Leader Paddy Mohan having our oldest boys at line-up just as several Senior counselors arrived with banners being flown from an incoming Jeep, announcing the start of the Olympics. The entire age group played a massive game of manhunt, and the boys had to hide from their counselors. Each time a camper was captured, he was given a point for his team. Points were weighted in such a way that the last boys captured by our Senior staff accumulated more points for their team. Our Senior boys had some very creative hiding places. One of our boys actually put on hockey goalie pads and helmet and blended into a Junior hockey game as his disguise.
Our Seniors were very excited to start their competition, which featured track, lacrosse, and basketball events. In the evening, our elite roller hockey players dropped the puck and squared off for an outstanding game in our upper hockey rink. Our Juniors competed all day long in tennis, volleyball, capture the flag, water polo, and two swim meets. Our Warriors jumped out of bed, came to breakfast dressed with bandanas on their heads with green and grey war paint on their faces, eager to compete. Our Warrior Crows competed in tennis, hockey, and lacrosse. Our Warrior Braves competed in all-sport, baseball, lacrosse, hockey, soccer, and golf, and our Warrior Indians competed in archery, basketball, tennis, lacrosse, and golf.
The spirit is high and the sense of being part of a team is palpable. No camper diverts from his program to visit with me in my office. It is amazing that those minor bunk clashes or an impulsive lack of judgment completely become irrelevant when the program takes center stage. It is a wonderful lesson for our boys to learn how to focus on the positive and not dwell on the minor hiccups throughout the day. While our campers are thriving and loving this final phase of the season, there was a moment the other night that bears repeating.
When our Okees returned from their Western Trip, exhausted from a long day of travel, a group of our oldest boys congregated on the steps of our weight room and plotted to pull a prank on the camp. As one might imagine when a group of fifteen-year-old boys get together, some of the boys became overly enthusiastic and eager to move forward with this type of plan. As details were being discussed, a group of thirteen-year-old boys walked passed the leaders of camp and overheard the plot. frustrated that the thirteen-year-old boys were eavesdropping, a few of our Seniors uncharacteristically made it clear to their younger counterparts that this was “their camp,” and they were not going to let their plans be derailed by these younger campers. As one might imagine, one of the Okees became over-stimulated and felt the need to intimidate a younger, smaller boy. This was immediately brought to my attention, and I brought the fifteen-year-old Okee to meet with me. When the Okee came into my office, he was rather defiant and was more focused on justifying his actions than acknowledging his shortcoming and repenting for his sins. The calmer I became, the more incensed the Okee became.
When I questioned his behavior and his thought process, he was more focused on trying to protect his reputation than acknowledging his misstep. We were at what I refer to as a point of struggle, something I often reference with my staff when dealing with children. At this point in time, there was nothing I could say to this young man to get him to see my point of view. In his young mind, he was defending the honor of the Okees and sticking up for his boys.
When children become defiant and reach the point of struggle, they shut down and become incapable of participating in a rational conversation. This camper and I were at that moment. I told the camper that it was time to leave my office, but that this matter was unresolved, which frankly gave both of us the opportunity to take a deep breath and revisit this matter later. A day later, coming out of a meal when the Okee least expected to be confronted by me, I asked him to sit with me in a quiet moment. By allowing time to pass, I was able to revisit what had occurred with this boy who was now less defiant and more open to seeing the consequences of his actions. We had a completely different conversation because we removed the emotions of the moment. A point of struggle occurs with most of us on a weekly basis. Whether it is in the workplace, at home with our own children, and yes even occasionally with our spouse, sometimes we just need to step away and revisit our differences at a less emotional time.
Another example of a point of struggle that happens every summer without fail is with our youngest boys in the dining room. On occasion, our youngest boys will come into the dining room for a meal and discover it is something that they do not prefer. When a counselor presents options, whether it be on the pasta bar, salad bar, or the deli counter, sometimes a child has made up his mind that he does not like something, and he shuts down. No matter how many times a counselor presents alternative choices for this little guy to eat, the child often says that he does not like anything. Our strategy is to take a step back and to revisit this conversation with the child later, not in the dining room at that point of struggle.
When we seek that child out, put our arms around him and ask him to write a list of food items they like to eat, they are often able to create a rather long list, but that list would never be generated at the point of struggle.
Camp is a happy place and a microcosm of our own communities. At any given moment in the midst of all the wonderful activities and everything we provide, it is natural for our boys to become sidetracked due to their emotions. It is at those times when my staff needs to be at their best and make these struggles into teachable moments. As a full day of competition came to an end, our boys retired for the evening. They came to the realization that this is the last Saturday night at the movies, and tomorrow will be our last Lazy Man’s Morning. These final opportunities are not taken for granted and are cherished by all.