Today Susie Ma’am and I completed one of our favorite parts of camp: Friendship Circle and Man Cave.
Friendship Circle (for girls) and Man Cave (for boys) is our effort to spend at least one hour with every cabin at camp. We schedule the cabins to come to our house, sit together and just talk.
OK, we do not JUST talk, Susie Ma’am and I also give the campers treats. We have Doritos for the salty snack crowd and Oreos for the sweets lovers. You might know that we have been focusing on providing healthier options at camp. For example, we stopped providing sodas at treat time and we endeavor to make most of the snacks more healthy that not. The options in the Fillin Station (our dining hall) are healthy, including gluten-free offerings and vegetarian options at every meal as well as an enormous salad bar with an assortment of proteins, fruits and vegetables.
Knowing this, you might ask, “Why do you serve Doritos and Oreos?” The answer is simple, we are cheating to assure that they love coming to the house!
Actually, I am not sure that is even necessary. The campers really enjoy having some time to just talk and share with each other, their counselors, division leaders and even their “old” directors.
Each year, we modify what we do during these special hours. Last year, we had silk “fortune cookies” that had discussion-inducing questions like “If you wrote a book, what would the topic be?” or “If you could have any superpower, what would you choose and why?” One of our favorites last year was “If you designed a space station, what would you put on it?” Apparently, oxygen tanks and space suits lose out to the true necessities: slushee machines, sport courts and swimming pools . . . in zero gravity.
This year, Susie Ma’am has some plastic body parts (like feet, eyes, hearts, etc) as well as conversation-starting cards. The girls attending her Friendship Circle can choose either 2 cards to answer or pick a body part and share a story about it.
Please do not think Susie Ma’am is conducting an anatomy class, the body parts are used as follows:
· I chose a foot because my family took a hike in the Rockies.
· I picked this heart because I love my cabinmates so much.
The cards work well too, though Susie Ma’am reports that one of the most popular cards has proven to be a dud: “Do you have any interesting scars or birthmarks?” Sounds like a good conversation starter, but it is not. Every single girl that has selected this card has shared the same scintillating answer.
Not a lot you can do with that one.
The girls also love sharing Friendship Circle with Fenway Ma’am and Wrigley Ma’am – the cookie-stealing basset hounds. I would have thought that having a dog steal a precious cookie would not make them popular, but the opposite is true. The girls giggle and howl when the dogs are on the prowl. Of course, it helps that Susie provides replacement cookies.
On the boys side, we are letting the guys build models using Legos. We ask them to build a model of a happy cabin or a perfect day at camp. We got the sets from a man who is president of Lego Education and a good friend. It has been fun to hear the different explanations of a perfect day (ranging from "time with friends" to "lots of water toys"!
But the Legos are not the main attraction. Perhaps the greatest aspect of these gatherings is our slushee machine. Yes, we have replaced sodas (previously, this was one of the few remaining places campers still got sodas) with slushees. Why? Because there is a universal truth that I have discovered. Deep in the heart of every child is a dream.
Not to become president or a sports star or a great performer. Sure some have these dreams, but one dream is shared by all children.
At the core of every child, is the desire to operate a slushee machine. OK, maybe not every day in 8 hour shifts, but at least once in the course of a lifetime. Some of us long to hike the Himalayas, but only AFTER we create our own 3 flavored, swirled slushee.
I had no idea.
One of the campers asked why we do these gatherings? It is because we do not want to be firemen.
Please allow me to explain. When do you call a fireman? Fire, car accident, medical emergency, cat trapped in tree. In short, they show up during emergencies/difficult times. We do not invite firemen to birthdays, wedding celebrations or graduations. No. The firemen get the tough times, but not the joyous ones.
Let me be clear, I am thrilled that firemen exist. But I think it might be tough seeing more tough times than grand times.
If we are not careful, a camp director quickly becomes a fireman. We know every altercation, homesickness case, illness and struggle. We, however, are not generally around when the camper who is scared of heights ascends the climbing wall or when a cabin shares jokes until they are laughing uncontrollably. As a camper and a counselor (many moons ago), I loved those moments. But today, our (Susie Ma’am and me) responsibilities are to assure the safety (physical and emotional) of our campers.
Since we want to enjoy fun chats with our campers, we decided to create them. Hence the birth of Friendship Circle and Man Cave.
One additional thought on the difference between the two. In camp, it is generally a good idea to convince the boys and girls that they are having different experiences. Here is how I explain it to the boys:
“The girls come to our house and sit on blankets, eat snacks, have drinks and chit chat. That, gentlemen, is called Friendship Circle. On the boys’ side, we do something entirely different. We sit on animal skins cleverly disguised as blankets. We do not have snacks, but instead have munchies. No drinks . . . beverages. And we do not chit chat, we talk (this said with as deep a voice as I can muster). And ours is called Man Cave! So, you can see that they are totally different.”
In reality, the only difference other than the name is the fact that the boys and girls now enjoy designated areas – the girls in the traditional space and the boys upstairs in our second family space. The picture is from the Man Cave area.