My son has been visiting my Dad in Virginia for a few weeks this summer. He attended a basketball camp the first week he was there. His report: "It was fun!" He learned a bit about basketball, had a good time with his cousins who were also attending the camp, and yes, he'd like to do it again next year.
This past week, he attended the accurately-named "Adventure Camp." At this camp, the kids went caving, mud-pit jumping, hiking, swimming, zip-lining, and more. My son’s report: "It was so awesome!!! It was so fun!!! I loved it!!! I want to do it again next week!!!"
I pressed for details. What made it so great?
Disclaimer: I may have some of the details not-quite-right. I got part of the story from my son, and part from my Dad, and my son was so excited and talking so fast that it was hard to understand half of what he said, but this is what I got out of what they both told me:
For starters, he learned that he is, as he put it, "slightly claustrophobic," meaning that when they went caving, he "freaked out" because the walls seemed like they were closing in, and he had to go back outside. But the camp counselors were awesome (and patient) and knew some shortcuts, so after a short while, he agreed to go back in, and they took a couple of the shortcuts and caught up to the rest of the group. He was so proud and happy that he overcame his fear and finished the caving expedition.
They also got to a place where there was a ledge and they had to jump down about three feet, but they made it, and it was "awesome!" (My son is 10. He is only about four feet tall, and he is generally scared of heights, so this was a huge big deal to him!)
And then ("the best part!"), coming out the other side, the kids unintentionally re-created a scene from Winnie the Pooh.
As in, a rather large child got literally stuck in the cave entrance (exit?).
Some kids were still inside the cave, behind him. Others had already emerged from the cave. So the kids outside pulled and the kids inside pushed and they pulled and pushed and pushed and pulled and ... nothing. Someone eventually called 911. The emergency crews came, and it took them 2 hours to remove the kid from the cave entrance. When he was successfully removed from the cave entrance, there was applause and cheering all ‘round.
This was, according to my son, "awesome!"
At first I was a little taken aback, but my son reassured me that the kid was laughing, not crying, and no one was teasing him or making fun of him. They all just thought it was a great adventure, and a great story to tell.
On a different day, they did some sort of zip-lining.
A child got stuck at one of the poles when the pulley jammed. He was dangling from the wire many feet above the ground while one of the camp counselors poked at the pulley with a stick. No luck. So another camp counselor had to climb the pole and work him loose. Again, the kid was stuck for about an hour, dangling from a wire, while they got it figured out.
My son’s report: "Awesome!!"
Again, the kid was laughing about it, and no one was traumatized, apparently...
Then on another day, they were swinging on a rope over a giant deep mud pit and doing cannonballs into the mud. My son apparently had a hard time getting out. It was thick and hard to move and.... well, the other kids had to all grab him and pull.
My son’s report: "Awesome!!"
As a parent in our "safety first" society, I feel like I should be cringing and swearing I’ll never send him to that camp again and/or trying to get it shut down. Too dangerous or something. But I don’t feel that way at all.
Instead, as a parent of a kid who is generally somewhat bookish a little timid, but came away from these scary events laughing and saying "Awesome!!" I feel like I ought to be writing the camp directors a big thank you letter.
Because in the end, no one was seriously injured, everyone came out of things ok, and what the kids learned (whether they realize it or not) was that there IS risk in great adventures. (As my husband would say, it’s that "air of danger" that makes it fun!) And if you’re going to have a great adventure, you need to be willing to accept the risk that something might go wrong. But also, when things do go wrong, you don’t panic, you stick together, you figure out a way to solve the problem, and you laugh about it afterwards because crying about it is just no fun at all.
So, he had fun, he overcame some fears, and he learned a bit about handling "sticky" situations. Sounds like an "awesome" week to me!