Adam's Summer Updates

1000 Words are Worth a Single Picture

Greetings from camp!

As many of you know, a couple of days ago we sent out an email to all of our current families which included biographies about each of the boys’ cabin counselors and their village directors.  All humility aside, as I read through those biographies, I am always amazed by what an impressive crew we have here.  These people are not only talented folks with children, but are also quite accomplished in the “off-season.”

You may have also noticed that in addition to the biographies, we also included TWO PHOTOS (!!!) of your son’s cabin group.  We began sending this cabin photo out about six years ago so that families could attach faces to the names that your sons will be referencing in the voluminous letters home you will be receiving. (Unless your son is like my son, in which case the first line of this update roughly equals the total word output you will receive per letter this summer….only with better spelling and grammar!  Sorry for the public shaming son….a dad needs to use whatever tools are at his disposal!)  The response to receiving these photos has been very positive.  It is clear that people really appreciate them.

Which begs the question as to why we do not post more photos, even daily photos, on our website.  It is something that we have thought about a lot and about which we’ve spoken with several other camp directors.  Some directors have chosen to go with photos and some have not. Certainly in this era of social media, it would be smart from a marketing standpoint to post photos all throughout the summer that people could share with their friends and family.  But, as is typical with Nebagamon, we have decided that the reasons for not posting photos are more important to us.  Here is our rationale:

There is the philosophical rationale:

  • I believe that to a certain extent, the time up here at camp should be the kids’ own time.  I think it should be their experience as much as possible.  One that we hope they will share with their parents through letters, letters which I’m guessing you will treasure over the years. (One of the eternal struggles in camp directing is getting the kids to write letters in the first place….let alone quality ones.)  But the introduction of daily photos would obstruct that a bit.
  • It’s good for us parents also. In the regular world, today’s technology allows us to constantly track our children. It kind of becomes a bad habit. The separation of camp, without that inevitable pressure of feeling like one needs to browse through 100s of photos each day to find one of your child or you are a bad parent, is healthy for us too.
  • Many camp directors that do post photos report that often times folks read too much into the expressions on the kids’ faces or the scrape on their kid’s knee.  Parents see that for the 1/100th of a second that the camera captured, their child was not smiling, and then parents get worried that something is amiss.  “That is not Johnny’s REALLY happy face, that is just his kinda happy face…what is wrong with him?  Why is my child in a sling and crutches?  (Just kidding!  We would, of course call you if this were the case!)  This creates unnecessary stress for parents as they get these images and interpretations stuck in their minds….  (I get several of these phone calls each time we send out just that one single photo.)
  • We strongly encourage parents that have worries, concerns, or just need to know how their son is doing, to call us here. Speaking to a real person, that is in regular contact with the boy, is, in my opinion, a far better way to know how he is really doing.

Then there is the nuts and bolts rationale:

  • It would be enormously time consuming; we make a choice to use our staff time in ways that more directly benefits the kids in camp.
  • The need to fairly show each camper a relatively equal number of times is a pretty daunting task when dealing with such a large number of kids.

I, of course, realize the potential fun and benefits of photos on the website, but after weighing the issues, at least at this point, we choose to not post them.  And while we deal with some camper homesickness here, one cannot underestimate the challenge that giving up one’s son for the month can present.  Parent homesickness is a real thing too.  I know it is hard.  It was extremely difficult when we sent our daughter off to camp….

These every other day updates are meant to not only give you writing prompts for your letters to your children, but also to give you our own version of snapshots of life at Camp Nebagamon.  Here are six snapshots:

SNAPSHOT 1:  A camper and a counselor sitting together in quiet conversation on the swinging bench outside the Big House. This boy has been working through some homesickness during these first few days of camp.  He has his ups and downs, and this is clearly a tougher moment for the boy.  The image is of a counselor patiently and caringly giving this boy 100 percent of his attention and letting him know that he is there for him.

SNAPSHOT 2:  The same camper and counselor laughing and singing the Little Birdie Song in the Rec Hall the next day.  The boy and his counselor are sitting again….this time they are singing a raucous song about a little birdie having a hard time getting to sleep!  (Primarily because a camp full of crazed boys are yelling at him!)  The two are clearly having fun together.  Like I said, ups and downs.

SNAPSHOT 3:  Two young campers smiling widely and standing next to a Frisbee golf hole.  For one of these boys, Frisbee golf had been rough.  No matter how hard he tried, he just kept getting beat by this other boy.  On this, the final hole, the consistent loser, finally won a hole!  8 shots to 10.  Success!!!!  (Except that the counselor that was supervising the match informed me that the boy that claimed to have gotten the Frisbee in the basket in 10 shots had actually made it in 7.  That’s right, he deliberately misrepresented his score to make his friend feel better.  Only at Nebagamon….)

SNAPSHOT 4:  The camp Big Brother patting his camp Little Brother on the head as he passes by the Swamper table that I was sitting at for dinner last night.  The younger boy had just informed me that he was homesick which was instantly erased the minute later when his Big Brother took the time to stop by during the meal and check in with him.

SNAPSHOT 5:  The head of our artshop handing a small package of art supplies to one of our Lumberjacks who will soon be leaving on Quetico Big Trip.  This camper is very worried about going into the wilderness for two weeks, and this caring staff member realized that sending him with a few items such as a sketchbook and journal, would make the trip more comfortable for this boy who loves art.

SNAPSHOT 6:  The entire Swamper Village in the lake in the shallow end being led in synchronized aqua aerobics by the decked out in Flashdance attire 6’4” senior counselor of Swamper 4 moving to the beat of Dexy’s Midnight Runner’s C’mon EileenNothing profound or deep about this snapshot….just plain old camp fun!

So….sorry, no daily photos on the website.  Just wordy snapshots that help you to imagine what life is like here, but still let HERE be the boys’ experience.

All is well in the North Woods…..