July 12, 2013
I am in a somewhat reflective mood today, so let me share how camp has helped me grow as an individual and parent.
18 years ago, I participated in a personality test. In this particular test, the consultant broke people into 4 categories:
I turned out to be an excellence person.
Typically, excellence people become good surgeons, accountants or writers. In each of these cases, you work with a small group of highly trained professionals with years of experience or just work with yourself. Perfection is nearly attainable.
Camp, my friends, is a fundamentally different endeavor.
At camp, our counselor team is not small, nor does s/he have 10-30 years of experience. Instead, the team is full of passionate, enthusiastic, loving 18-22 year-olds. We live in close proximity and work long days.
We make mistakes. 100+ college age people are not where you look for perfection. So sound systems get returned without the proper cords, schedules have mistakes, campfires are not prepared in advance, lost and found piles up, photos are uploaded late.
The inner “excellence” person finds this hard to ignore. Surely we can do each of these things correctly. None of these tasks are rocket science. Lets get it fixed.
But the “excellence” person misses the point. Camp, like life, is rarely perfect. We must learn to adapt, adjust and be flexible.
Most importantly, the “excellence” person misses the most important point. These imperfect college-aged people are becoming heroes to your children. Perfection does not say goodnight one-by-one to each camper at night. It does not sit on the floor and share stories. Perfection does not play gaga well.
No child ever put a picture of perfection in his or her school locker.
In this way, camp has been teaching me important lessons that make me a better parent and a better director. I have learned that I cannot control the troops, but I can marshal them. I have learned to find the joy hidden in the wrinkles of unpredictability and chaos.
Today is the perfect day to drive these points home with some craziness. Dinner tonight is “Caveman Dinner”. The name pretty much explains everything. We cover the tables with butcher paper and piles of food. The campers then eat with their hands. Many will grunt and act silly (count me among them). The main course was ribs, drumsticks, corn and bread. [Note: the vegetarians will have baked ziti as their option. Some might doubt the wisdom of pasta on caveman day, but this is the type of imperfection that will make for an interesting meal.]
After the Cavemen meal, we had some serious showering and hand washing in anticipation of the Drum Café. The Drum Café is a group led by Dave Monin, a man I met when I gave my TEDx talk last October. He does group events from executive teambuilding to school rallies. He is quite smart and they put on a great show.
Imagine every camper and every counselor with a drum with 4 trained drummers all drumming together. These guys have the ability to transform what is essentially cacophony into an organized drumming exercise. On moment, we are all drumming 3 times, then twice, then 7 times – together and rhythmically. They do almost all of this using just hand signals.
They talk about community and teamwork. At one point, they have all the girls hitting a set rhythm while the boys place their fingertips on their drums so that they can feel the vibrations from the girls’ beat. While we are not touching physically, we are affecting each other (we then switch the exercise).
Of course, drumming night is not simply about lessons and metaphor. In fact, it is mostly just a fantastic and uplifting way to spend 40 minutes. In fact, I was sure that they had not taken their allotted time until I realized that they went 5 minutes over – the time absolutely flew.
In short, this was a perfect day for this “excellence” person to find his inner boy and simply celebrate a great day.