Camp is ever evolving. I know I've written this in the past, but it's an incredibly important idea to grasp...

CAMP IS EVER EVOLVING. This means that camp = change. What a bizarre thought - especially for those of us who have worked at a camp. "There's no change, Pete! It's tradition!"

Yes, tradition. Of course... In fact, I've written about the importance of tradition. But that's not what I'm talking about...

Remember camp... when you were a kid? Yeah. It was 10,000 times different than today. Absolutely. Why? Because people have changed! Parents have changed! Children have changed!

In the past, we wouldn't think twice about having riflery as a specialty area... Nowadays it takes a good deal of thought and insurance.

Ok, I'll be concise for once. Is camp worse off today? Are we overly protective? Has camp been transformed into a glorified day care?

In the past, you could scrape a knee at camp or even break a leg - it was a commonality. Parents don't find that acceptable anymore. I can't get away with saying that your child was acting like a child and therefore got hurt - someone needs to be accountable on the micro-level. Some of this change is good. It prevents abuse where there was the possibility of abuse; it makes safety the priority where it may not have been number one in the past... Is there overkill, though?

Let's start at the definition of camp. I'm not talking about Websters, here, I'm referring to what made camp special back in the day. Camp represents freedom - the first time in a kids life that they are free to be whomever they want. Mom isn't dressing me in the morning and I'm not being evaluated at every turn... I'm not surrounded by the same group of schoolyard chums that I grew up with... I'm free.

This freedom came at a cost, though. The laws of camp used to be wide open. I'm not talking about conscious neglect, but having a late-night all-camp all-woods game of capture the flag was foolish on so many levels. It was... and there *were* broken legs as well as smoking, relations and other activities that were not parent approved. Some of those were character building - the summer romance, the triumphant victory and etc. But the cost to some campers was fairly horrific - beatings, bullying, being left out...

Of course, it was an incredibly BAD camp experience that got me involved in making good camp experiences...

Anyway, there was a price to pay with the lawlessness of the past. Now there are laws that we as a community cannot avoid whether we want to or not. Inspections need to be passed, parents pleased and the ever looming shadow of accountability and insurance cast down their intimidating shade from every branch. Our programs HAVE to be safety conscious - and that's a great thing. I don't want any kid to get hurt ever... except!!!

EXCEPT - children get hurt. We're not walking the halls of a school, we're roaming the woods. There is no such thing as a SAFE camp. We strive to be the safest possible, but there are dangers of being in the woods, playing on fields and hanging out with other campers (among other things).

Accidents happen. They happen everywhere and they happen often. We're not the camp of the past, where a kid may break their leg because of staff neglect, but that doesn't mean that kids won't break their legs. And I know I'm being a little extreme, but we need to show parents that we've evolved past the days of their youth while maintaining the important parts of our history. This being said, campers get dirty, they scrape their knees and every now and then something unfortunate happens.

This is a very important fight because if we don't stand up to the ever-growing over protectiveness of the world, we'll lose the essence of what makes camp important - RATHER what makes being a kid important.

To clarify my point - Safety is always going to be the priority above all else... I just want to insert a little realism into the minds of our customers.

We cannot keep everything bubble wrapped - and frankly, the only fun thing about bubble wrap is popping the bubbles.

My Sesame Street project launches on my birthday, October 10th. Expect much rejoicing!


Coach Lion said...

Eloquently and well said. I can empathize on so many levels. I hope all was well with your camp season...
and what an excellent birthday present with the Sesame Street project. How coool is that!

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more!! I wish I could understand why this was happening. None of us WANT kids to get hurt, but we DO want them to be able to take risks and feel the thrill of success when they finally climb a tree or get a run in baseball. And we want them to have those memories of utter foolishness and fun. Kids that are wrapped in bubble wrap don't get that, and it's so sad.