Tag Archives: 4H camp

How to make friends, part 2

Read part 1 here….

We got to camp with a lot of time to spare before the opening ceremonies. Taz brought his own basketball, giving him an even better chance at meeting kids since the ball situation at camp proved to be limited at times. He spent his free time shooting hoops beside another kid, but they didn’t really talk with each other. In fact, there were more kids hanging out on their own than there were groups, many of them cautiously moving around everyone else as they tried to see where they fit in. A lot of parents were still there, and the kids kind of hung back with the faces they knew as they sought out something familiar among the weird and unknown. Taz did the same, though he purposely spent more time on the courts than with me to assert his independence.

Opening ceremonies came and I headed down with the rest of the camp. I saw Taz briefly but never quite saw where he sat until the ceremony was halfway over. He sat by himself as far away as the rest of the group as he could, only getting up when his name was called as they lined up in tribes. I silently prayed that a friend would manifest himself into this group he had just been placed in, and then let it go to fate.

My daughter called out the names for her own tribe one by one. She named off a new kid I had noticed earlier, “Ben”, and he left his dad to come forward. Something caught under his shoe however, and he tipped forward into a rolling fall in front of the whole camp. He appeared to brush it off, but you could tell he was shaken. It was definitely apparent when the poor kid was seen moments later with his dad, trying his hardest not to cry and failing miserably. I caught up with DQ a little while later and we both discussed a plan on how to help both Ben and Taz get to know each other to help ease some of the inevitable homesickness if nothing were done.

Tribe meetings ended, and Taz had found a familiar face in the dining hall. It was a kid who went to his school who he didn’t really get along with. But being that both of them didn’t have any friends here, they were suddenly the best of friends with each other. They were playing Foosball on one of the tables, trying to figure out how to play without a ball since they couldn’t find one. For now, they were settling with a pine cone. I could see Ben circling the table like a vulture, obviously interested in what they were doing, but totally unsure how to step in. To top it off, the tears hadn’t quite left his demeanor, and he was fighting them off as best as he could. This meant he was holding his t-shirt up over his face to hide the fact that he was on the verge of tears, even though his red-rimmed eyes were giving him away.

“Taz,” I said, beckoning him at an opportune moment, “see that kid over there?” I asked him. “He’s having a really hard time right now and doesn’t know anyone.” I explained what had happened at opening ceremonies after Taz had left, and Taz made a noise of sympathy. “I think he needs a friend just as bad as you did. Do you think you can ask him to join you?” Taz gave me a pained look.

“I don’t know, Mom,” he said. “What if I did it later tonight?”

“It will be too late,” I said. “I’m afraid he’s going to try and go home.” Taz gave me a half-hearted promise that he’d try, and then went back to the table to play.

“I got a ball, so I get first dibs at playing,” another kid said, coming up to Taz and his school friend. Both boys made groans of how unfair that was, but let him take over on one of the sides of the table. Meanwhile, Ben was getting a little braver and coming closer to the table. He finally made a bold move and just sat right next to where they were playing Foosball. Taz glanced over and saw the new kid.

“I got it,” Taz said suddenly. “You and you are a team,” he said as he pointed at the new kid and his school friend. “And me and him will be a team,” pointing at the kid with the ball.

And just like that, they became a group of four friends.

I couldn’t stick around at camp. My limited vacation time dictated that I would be working at my job this week rather than my usual week off chaperoning at camp. But before I left, I saw that Taz’ group was strong in their bond, and appeared to be growing as more and more kids got to know each other. Taz wouldn’t be alone this year, and several more kids would come home to their parents with stories of the new friends they had made in such a short time. In fact, groups were forming all over camp, and the faces of strangers were now starting to look a lot more like friends.

The unfamiliar can be scary – whether you’re 11 years old, 34 years old, 48 years old, or whatever age you are. And when you’re alone in a sea of strangers, it’s hard not to feel totally alone in your predicament as well. But really, all anyone wants is a sense of familiarity when surrounded by the unknown. Sometimes all it takes is one kind gesture for the unknown to become something a little friendlier.

And sometimes, we have to make that first step.

A shorter version of this two-part story will publish in the Press Democrat on July 27.

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How to make friends, part 1

Last year when Taz went to camp, he spent the whole entire time hanging out with a 6-year old instead of 10-year olds like him. It had been an awkward year for him already, having started the school year at a new school, and then finishing it back up at his old school because the first school was too rough on him. It was a learning experience for all of us, and we were lucky to have ended it on a good note. But the whole ordeal took a toll on his self-esteem, and suddenly my outgoing guy who was generally well-liked at school was a little less sure of himself and totally out of his element when it came to meeting new people.

So this year, I was intent that things would be different.

DQ was in my corner on this project of ours to condition Taz into making friends and not being alone the whole week. She began keeping an eye out for all her friends younger brothers, learning their names and ages as well as judging their temperament to see if they might be someone Taz might like to hang out with. I began talking with Taz about it, encouraging him about how to handle situations and hang out with kids his own age this year. If Taz had been 13 or 14 while I talked with him about making new friends, he would have shrugged me off and told me to stay out of his business. But one of the coolest things about 11-year olds is how open they are generally to new ideas and suggestions, and even to mothers and sisters butting into his life.

Camp came and I drove Taz up that morning. DQ was already there since she’s on teen staff, so it was just the two of us. The past week we had gone through our fair share of turmoil as he spaced on all the things he was supposed to do in favor of playing videogames all day long. As we drove, the discussion we had about the abuse of his free time turned into a fullblown argument – me at my wits end, and him feeling totally unheard. We drove in silence for another 10 minutes before it clicked what was going on.

“You want to know what I think?” I asked him. He turned slightly towards me, but kept his head ducked down so he didn’t have to look at me. “I might be wrong, but my guess is that you’ve been playing a lot of videogames to avoid some of the stuff that’s really going on, huh?” He seemed a little more interested in what I had to say, this time looking at me to hear more.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“I mean, you’re on the videogames all day because it’s a way to keep in touch with your friends, right? It’s so you don’t really have to say goodbye.” This past school year was his last at the Santa Rosa schools, as he would be attending school in Petaluma in the fall. In the process, he was leaving behind all his friends, and many of them he probably would never see again.

I glanced over at Taz as he quickly swiped away at his eyes. He nodded yes.

“And this week you’re going to camp and are going to be in a new situation with new people, and that’s kind of scary, isn’t it?”

“I’m really nervous,” he admitted. “I mean, I want to make friends. But what if no one likes me?” With the root of the problem facing us, the fight was suddenly forgotten. I didn’t have an answer for him. All I could do was reassure him that his sister would never let that happen, and that I was sure he would come away from the week with a friend. But the honest truth was, how was I to know how it would turn out?

To be continued….

Send your kids to camp this summer

Competing in the Egg Races at Las Posadas 4H Camp

If you are still scrambling to find things to keep your child occupied, have you considered sending them away to camp? A tradition that my own family has kept for generations, camp is a great opportunity for kids to exert independence while making new friends and having tons of fun being active.

Be sure to check out the complete list of Day and Away Camps by CLICKING HERE.

Boat races at the Water Carnival

My personal favorite camp is 4H Camp, held in the woods of the Las Posadas forest in Angwin, California (Napa County). For 6 days and 5 nights, kids receive the full camp experience. In the morning, campers can wake up early and attend a “Polar Bear Swim”, supervised by a lifeguard and teen staffers while they swim in a cold pool that is still warmer than the freezing air outside. Every camper belongs to a “tribe”, giving them a better opportunity to meet other campers and make new friends, and ensuring they won’t get lost in the shuffle. Tribes compete with each other to receive the most “tribe points” for things like joining in the most activities, winning daily competitions, or members going above and beyond their camper duties.

Early morning hike

All meals are eaten in an open Dining Hall, and the food is unexpectedly good for being camp food. Evenings are ended with a camp fire celebration, where songs are sung, tribes perform, and camp spirit burns bright. And at the end of the day, campers settle into their sleeping bags under the stars until they wake to do it all over again. 4H Camp also offers several exciting hikes, a craft shack, education sessions, carnivals, and is accompanied by a camp theme decided on by the teen staff.

Speaking of the teen staff, the whole camp is put on by a very capable group of teenagers who have worked all year long to create a fun and memorable camp program. While adults are available for assistance, the teens are the ones who oversee the whole week.

Saying goodbye with the Candlelighting Ceremony

4H Camp is looking for campers aged 9-14, as well as adult chaperones. Campers do not have to be members of 4H. The camp fees are kept incredibly low at only $240* for non-members for the entire week. Chaperones can attend for a mere $23 (though each adult chaperone must pass be fingerprinted and go through an orientation).

There are two sessions of camp:

Camp I – Monday, June 27 to Saturday, July 2 FULL
Camp II – Sunday, July 3 to Friday, July 8 (Camp 2 still has many open slots)

Applications due by June 15th!

For information on how to attend, visit the 4H camp website at http://www.sonoma4hcamp.org. From there, you can read more about camp, view photos, and print out the applications to apply for camp. If you have questions about camp, please call the 4-H Office at 707-565-2681.