So far this summer I have been to rock climbing camp, robotics camp, iMovie camp, RPG design camp, and one day of nature camp. Matt, the mighty babysitter, finished the week of nature camp for me because I was needed out of town on a professional project.
Matt and Milo were tight for a long time, then Matt fell victim to Milo’s paranoia and went off to work with other kids and in a school. But after a few months, and a change of medication, Milo was willing to welcome Matt back into his constellation of caregivers.
According to Matt, the rest of the week at camp went well. By well, he didn’t mean smoothly. There were bug bites followed by exaggerated expressions of discomfort. There was an encounter with another boy that involved the boy pushing Milo playfully, Milo asking him to not do that, the boy doing it again, Milo asking again, the boy doing it again, Milo asking politely again, the boy doing it again, Milo blowing up, screaming and pushing the boy. Matt talking Milo into calming down and apologizing. When Milo told me the story he said, “Matt said I had to be the bigger person. So I was.”
My one day at nature camp was a full-on Milo summer camp experience. We arrived coincident with Milo’s BFF. We checked in, I signed the barefoot waiver and we joined his age group whole they played a game called gaga ball. I asked Milo if he was sure he wanted to play. He did, and it went well enough. He got out, but he didn’t protest. Then we joined the morning gratitude circle. The counselors introduced themselves and said what they were grateful for. One of them was grateful for finding the remains of a bunny rabbit and some owl feathers behind the tree because this was part of the circle of life. Then the counselors went on to discuss predators and prey. Milo snuck behind me, the circle, the tree and saw the bodiless bunny legs. He came to my side, tugged on my hand and led me away from the circle. Then he shouted:
HOW COULD YOU BRING ME TO A PLACE WHERE CREATURES DIE? OTHER CREATURES KILL THEM!! HOW COULD YOU??
Well, Buddy, I didn’t know that there would be a dead bunny here. But this is outdoor science wildlife camp, so it seems appropriate.
What? Wildlife?? I thought this was outdoor science camp!!
Well, animals are a big part of outdoor science.
And you just forgot to tell me about the nature part?
Well nature is part of outdoor science too.
Grrrr Mommy, I don’t want to do this camp.
I’m sorry camp doesn’t meet your expectations Buddy. Let’s think about how we can adjust your expectations.
It’s not about adjusting my expectations, it’s about changing the way I think.
Why? What do you mean?
I mean, I don’t think about animals killing other animals. I don’t want to think about that. I thought we would look at bugs and stuff.
You will. You already like looking at bugs, right?
Okay, so it’s not such a big change.
Can you tell them not to make me look at or talk about dead animals?
Yes, I will tell them.
And we returned to the circle. We played a name game, did a nature scavenger hunt, ate our lunch, listened to a story, set up a trail camera, built a bird feeder, and then Milo played capture the flag. I asked him if I could sit out. It was hot, and I’m old.
Also, I wanted to be able to see him in case the competitive nature of the game set him off. He still has a hell of a time being reasonable in the face of what he considers injustice. I sat with the kids choosing “calm and quiet,” under a massive southern oak with a far reaching canopy, watched them draw pictures of flowers and listened to the counselors gossip. Milo had been given the job of guarding his own side’s jail. He didn’t have to run, which he hates to do, but he had to be watchful and intimidating, which he enjoys. I heard him raise his voice, but it was in service to his vocation. He dodged some tags and doled out other tags. In the end his team won, and he played the game like everyone else — with sweat and vigor and wartime enthusiasm.
Later in the week he puddle stomped and creek stomped, watched animals not he trail camera, caught and set free bugs, and played more and “better” group games. He judged the week “fun” so I judge fit successful. And with that, our summer of camp ends. There’s just togetherness left.