With a quick sweep across camp, one an easily tell that the kids have arrived. Gone are the days where we would wave a hipper hello to each other as we brushed our teeth in the morning, or entertain lighthearted conversation on the walk up to our tents at night; there isn’t enough fake enthusiasm to waste on such pleasantries.
All things considered, my bunk, the Little Johns, are relatively well behaved, but that isn’t to say that it’s been an easy couple of days. Each child will inevitably come with baggage from their individual circumstance, something i’d mentally tried to prepare myself for. One thing I didn’t fat ore in, however, is their age!
I had been psyching myself up for deep heart to hearts and to have to deal with some pretty tough stuff, but for seven year old boys, it is manifest, not in what they say, but what they do, and that blindsided me like you wouldn’t know it. For example, one of my boys, afraid of spiders, was in hysterics for around two hours despite us getting rid of everything that could possibly resemble insect life from the showers, another has a tendency to bolt off in a random direction for no apparent reason, and one has this way about him in that once he says he won’t do something, he becomes a brick wall.
It may be a tall order for us, as counsellors, to expect good nature and behaviour from seven year olds coming from where they are, I mean they’ve only just started school. I think it’s that expectation that is killing me as its constantly failing to be met, so we get angry and pick up the rope in the futile tug of war.
Another thing that completely caught me off guard was the lack of potty training. I did come with a little bit of me thinking”I’ve done this before, so how different could it be?”, oh boy. Again, it definitely could be worse, going by the stories I’ve heard of campers over the years, but we’ve had our fair share of “surprises” in the middle of the night, both kinds. You never really know why it happens either, be it physical incontinence or emotional issues arising from their upbringing and family environment, maybe they didn’t have anywhere to “go”, maybe their parents were abusive, maybe they’re homesick. The only thing we can really do is be there to be woken up at whatever hour of the night they please to take them out, because it’s definitely preferable to finding out the following morning.
The main thing that sets this camp apart from my other one is what these boys want from you. The older group I’m used to see you as more of an older brother, someone they can look up to and have fun with, but can also chat to about other things in life. These boys see me as their dad, and sometimes, when I’m laden with their fanny packs, schedule in one hand whilst the other is splitting up a fight, I really do feel like a dad! And that is going to take some getting used to, for sure.
There are good things about working with seven year olds, for example, they can be really cute at times when they get scared of a big moth that they just caught and hold on for dear life, they go to sleep almost instantly when you read them a few chapters of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and they’re the only tranche of society that would probably think I’m older than I actually am; some kid thought I was thirty! They are also really easily entertained, as long as that involves sticks, stones and hunting bugs, which, if it were up to me, I would happily let them do, but sadly can’t due to health and safety, or something.
It’s been a pretty mixed bag but on reflection, I’m enjoying it a lot more than I think I would if someone was to tell me the above. Having days off is also a nice little treat, which involved lots of walks across the lake, some reading time, and napping under the afternoon sun.
That’s all for now!