DJ has been part of a program for the past few years – a program that takes kids and teaches them about being in the woods, tracking, finding food, etc. She has loved the adventure and the things she has gotten to do. They are grooming her to be a camp counselor next summer when she’s old enough.
When I walked into the place, I chuckled to myself because the huge first aid kit on the wall had “Safety 3rd” written on it in big letters. I asked DJ later what that meant – and she explained that safety was the 3rd rule. Rule #1 was don’t die. Rule #2 was no injuries that won’t heal in a few days. Perfect, I thought. Safety 3rd.
What I learned later is that it was bigger than that. They were trying to instill in the kids a code of conduct that had first and foremost a code in common sense. They taught and encouraged the kids to use common sense about things, to take chances, and to fail better next time if they failed the first time. They said they offered anti-camps to kids. And they truly were the anti-camp as they told the kids what to bring, told them to dress warm and have food, then take them off into the woods for 8hrs. They do this with five and six year olds – not just the teens.
Anyone knowing our parenting style in the house would understand quickly why we felt this was a great fit. But it seemed the more she got involved the better a fit it was. And they felt that way too because DJ has been asked back early and often. This is important because if they don’t think it’s a fit – they don’t try to make you fit or their program fit you – they simply suggest you find something more appropriate and send you along your way. (Another thing I appreciate)
DJ started her 3rd year of year long training program. She knows she is a guinea pig of sorts as they started this program her first year – so each additional year is the organization trying to figure out with the kids where to go next. Last year, they split things along the lines of boys and girls which DJ struggled with as the girls did the teenage girl thing and sometimes got caught up too much in that drama crap. She was hesitant this year- a bit scared of what this year would hold because she loves the program – and wants to keep loving it.
She got in the car yesterday, and her energy hit me like a ton of bricks. She had a good weekend. Here was what surprised me in a good way……they are doing coed again. Except they are stepping it up a notch. The advanced teens were told simply this: we trust you, we have every reason to trust you, we want you to work as a single community, so we aren’t splitting you up anymore – don’t give us a reason to take away this trust.
When I asked what that meant – she explained simply: “the boys are no longer sent to siberia at night while the girls get the fire…..we all get the fire to sleep around at night.”
“So you all sleep together now?”
“Yep” she responded – then told how Friday night they were happy around the fire until at 3am it started raining so they all headed into the teepee and made a huge pile of kids in sleeping bags. The next night, they took an assessment of who had what in terms of sleeping bags and tarps and blankets and came up with a plan on how to sleep in a way so everyone was warm. “So since I have a great sleeping bag, I slept on the outside next to a guy who had a crappy bag. It was weird sleeping about four inches from a guy – but really wasn’t a big deal if we all stayed warm.”
I kinda laughed at the situation. How many parents upon hearing that the teenage boys and teenage girls were sharing a teepee in the middle of the woods would freak the fuck out? More parents than I care to think about would have called and complained. Yet, this is a group of adults that look at the kids – the kids who bring one set of clothes with them – a sweatshirt – a hat – some gloves – and spare socks – and they know that no one is getting naked. Nothing is going to happen when it’s cold and wet. Plus, given the number of bisexual females, if this was a concern, they would have to split up the girls too.
But as one of the boys summarized, “God, how awkward would that be if two people started screwing around in front of the others – you’d never live that down. Plus, there’s too many of us to have an orgy so it would just be weird.”
“There is an upper limit on the number of people that can participate in an orgy?” I asked DJ who was retelling the story.
“Uhm, I don’t know,” she paused, “is there? …..wait! Don’t answer that! I don’t want to know.”
Ah, she knows me too well.
And then she told me the story about the pocket eggs….
….yeah, I really like this program.