It was the final night of Grade 7 camp, earlier this month, as children took turns braving the stage.
One of the other chaperones turned to me and noted that the students we’d watched closely over the previous two days – and who were performing in brief, comedic sketches that they had devised ‘by committee’ – had by this point in their young lives already developed the personalities they would retain as adults.
True, I nodded, as I watched many of them shed their inhibitions to the delight of their peers, teachers, counsellors and a handful of us moms and dads who went along for the ride of their young lives.
I had felt that much more time had passed since the day before when we’d loaded into the South Surrey school buses bound for Horseshoe Bay, and on to the Sunshine Coast.
Throughout two jam-packed days, I’d overseen and listened to the boys and girls of my son’s elementary school – in all their various cliques and social interactions – and I developed an inkling of what they might be like when grown up.
There on the stage, performing their hearts out, were our future CEOs and our professionals, our worker bees and – statistically – our underemployed. No doubt, like some of their already-matured members of the audience, our future teachers, ferry-boat captains, entrepreneurs and photographers were among them.
I imagined I saw before us our professional athletes, our performers, our politicians. Some will go on to great success and others will no doubt settle for a little less, both professionally and personally.
And I found myself wondering why so many adults seem to lose the magic that we’d been privileged to witness.
By Grade 7, right on schedule, the students were showing signs of maturity, the good, the less-good and the sometimes ugly. They were speaking with more authority, yet there were small hints of cliquishness and self-awareness that risks becoming so much more pronounced as they age.
More blatant, however, was the zest for life that I hope to continue long past my sell-by date.
Surrounded by high-energy children – and surprisingly even higher-energy counsellors from New Zealand and Australia – we parents were invited to watch and take part in numerous activities that tested our own physical stamina and resolve.
I was blessed to be able to watch my son and his many friends explore the ocean on kayaks and canoes, build shelters and fires, shoot arrows, climb walls and capture each others’ flags.
I watched as they took turns collecting and serving food at mealtimes, and gathering dishes and cleaning up soon after.
They danced, clapped and sang, and I saw them pitch in to offer a hand to one another – and even to one parent who foolishly tore a calf muscle in the aforementioned game of capture the flag (likely related to approaching old age – but perhaps that’s another column).
Most of all, though, over the shortest of time, I watched them evolve. In that small slice in an otherwise typical school year, many of them transformed. The meek became more confident, the disinterested more involved and the self-assured more giving – all helpful qualities as they transition into high school and beyond.
Grade 7 camp. Perhaps it shouldn’t be just for our youth.
Lance Peverley is the editor of Peace Arch News.