We’re a few weeks into the summer and my son has already learned a few important things at camp. No, he hasn’t tied any sailing knots, or learned how to carve a bear out of a block of wood, but he is learning to navigate the sometimes treacherous waters of middle school a few months early. The town-run camp that he’s attending is aimed at kids entering grade six through grade eight – so he’s being exposed to lots of new things and older kids and it’s been somewhat eye-opening for him. Here’s what he’s learned so far:
1. Keep track of your belongings. Campers are required to bring a backpack with their swimming gear, water bottle, and a book for mandatory reading time. On the first day of camp, he put his knapsack down “somewhere” while he had lunch and, when he retrieved his belongings, he found that his book was missing.
A) Did he misplace it?
B) Could he have taken it out when he was getting changed for swimming and forgotten to put it back in his bag?
C) Could it have been stolen?
It could have been any of the above – but the point is that he realized that he needs to be more responsible for his things and be aware of where he puts his bag when he’s not attending to it.
2. Old friends may make new friends – and leave you out. One of my son’s buddies from elementary school is also attending the camp, but he’s been paling around with an older kid from his neighborhood and blowing off my son at lunchtime to sit with the “cool kids.” My son’s a little disappointed and somewhat confused that someone who he thought was his friend, someone who he ate lunch with almost every day throughout fifth grade, suddenly no longer wanted him at the lunch table. Lesson learned: Old allegiances will change and you have to put yourself out there and make new friends.
3. No one is going to lead you around – you have to think and advocate for yourself! This camp is held in the town’s enormous, maze-like high school that would put Hogwart’s magically shifting stairwells to shame. Each of the five daily activities at camp is held in a different classroom and you have to navigate your way around and figure out how to get there – which means you have two options:
A) Figure out how the room numbering is done
B) Ask someone for help
Of course, my son lost his way a few times on the first day and had to ask for directions from the counselors, janitors, other students – anyone who could help him figure out how to locate his destination. The important things is that he did it on his own and that confidence is key to success in middle school.
4) Don’t Be a Sucker. On the third day of camp, one of the older kids came up to my son and told him, “I’ll give you a dollar if you go tell that kid over there that he’s a jerk.” Luckily, my son has read enough “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” novels to know to say, “Uh, no thanks. Tell him yourself.” But it’s typical of the type of top-down harassment that happens in middle school. I asked him what do you think would happen if he DID go over to the kid and tell him that so-and-so thinks you’re a jerk. “He would probably punch me or something.,” he replied, “and the other kid wouldn’t pay me the dollar.” Smart.
School hasn’t even started yet and it sounds like he’s already getting the hang of this middle school thing.