Monday, May 26, 2008

Lessons Learned at the Family Campout

The Adair Clan welcomes every summer at our annual Memorial Day Campout (also called the Annual Memorial Day Deluge) and say farewell at our yearly Labor Day Campout (sometimes also called the Labor Day Deluge). We live in Northwest Washington State. What can I say? If you’re going to have all that green, you’re going to have to learn to go camping in the rain.

Memorial Day we spend at the Church property on the Stillaguamish River. The reason we camp there is because of the 25’ by 45’ covered area on the lower campground, an early addition as they started developing the property.

It’s been fun to watch the property change each year. This year they’ve added tent-cabins, showers, flush toilets, and a COPE course. COPE stands for Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience. It’s kind of like an obstacle course, but it does more than challenge the individual. It’s designed to teach leadership skills, teamwork, confidence, trust, and self esteem.

For part of the weekend, we were the only group there, and we took the opportunity to go as a family up to the COPE course. The dads and kids formed a team, and moms, grandparents and toddlers watched and cheered. There were several “electrically charged” obstacles the team had to get through: one looked like a giant cat’s cradle and the other was a tire suspended between two poles. If you touched any of the web or the tire, you were dead, and so the team had to keep everyone safe. Another challenge was a log suspended about ten feet off the ground that everyone had to get over. There was also a balance beam set in the midst of a ‘lava pit’ that people had to get across, half from one end and half from the other, all at the same time.

The team consisted of kids, ages 5, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, and two fairly young dads. They were (to me) surprisingly successful, and as we sat around the campfire afterward, I asked each what he or she learned. Here’s what they said:

Kjaisa: I learned teamwork. The strong helped the weak.

Corey: Don’t give up.

Jens: Some things are dangerous. Kids can get hurt. They let the little ones do easy stuff.

Lucy: The older ones watched out for the kids and kept them safe because they care about us.

Terry: Sometimes it has to be uncomfortable for you in order for someone else to succeed.

Matt: If someone sees someone else do something, they believe they can. We gain strength from others’ successes.

Vaughn: My oldest brother was a big asset to us in finishing the course.

Kjiersten (age 3): My dad does funny things.

Rich: Always go for the photo op.

Morgan: Never give up.

Grandpa (Spectator): Cooperation is what made it work.

Leesie: How to do stuff alone.

Ruth (spectator): I saw endurance and creativity.

Addy: Everything is how you think it is. You can do something if your mind tells you you can.

Lizzy: You have to trust each other and help each other.

I was amazed at the insights even the youngest gained from going through that exercise. Kjiersten, who just saw her dad doing funny things, didn’t participate. But, her sister, Lucy, three years older, did, and she understood that cooperation--the strong helping the weak, the creative coming up with workable plans--is what made them successful. That’s a pretty good lesson to learn at age six.

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