Dear Boundless Families:
The drive was swift, and safe. Families were prompt and efficient – much obliged.
One kid at drop off wouldn’t get out of the car. Shoulders slouched, hiding behind his mane of 70’s hair, he was clinging to the seatbelt like he was about to jump out of a plane into a teenage wasteland. Eleven hours have elapsed. He is now preparing dinner with a skip in his step, and has connected with three other kids – which is a solid beginning.
I come upon him in the lodge kitchen, and he won’t engage me, but in a delightfully shy kind of way that melts me. I won’t have any of it. I am the guy who convinced him to come back in March, so its on me. I force eye contact and plead,
“So, seriously, how is it? Tell me!”
This kid is kind deep down inside and can’t resist my levity, so allows a slight grin, and says,
“Its okay, I am going to be okay Steven”
I believe him. And that was that.
He wants to move on quickly from the encounter, so I ease up. I want a fist pump, but its too early.
Pretty much the same process has been happening with all of your kids in varying degrees. We see everything on day one, from false bravado to extreme shyness and everything in between.
About 80 per cent are already “there”, and we have strong hopes for the balance.
The beginning is so crucial. In a group process, forces of benevolence and kindness must gather more steam than inclinations to be mean and selfish.
And these positive forces are overwhelming the negative. And its happening in all five cohorts. At the risk of counting chickens a tad too early, heres the line-up:
These grade 8 and 9 grads in the outdoor program are already moving in lockstep, playing pranks on the staff team at the instigation of their devilish trip leader Kevin Klin.
Klin is pure magic with this age group who can be monsters from time to time and angels in the next instant. He pretty much had them at “hello”. They took off one hour after arrival and I haven’t seen them since – those buggers. Some cookout by a waterfall or something like that – tough life I know.
The Middle Agers:
These guys are with Tony, the towering Italian trip leader whose voice is so baritone and infused with power he could moonlight as a eco-friendly foghorn. His charisma is not to be outdone by anyone on the property.
He upholds the lofty standards he grew up with around the dinner table – things like
Standing up to shake one’s hand
Don’t leave anyone hanging – honour reigns supreme
And then Tony will overwhelm the group in a tornado of laughter that sweeps them away in gaiety – that’s who your kids are getting to lead them for a fortnight. So its doesn’t matter what they are doing – they will be doing it with hard work and gut-splitting joy.
The English gang – all 21 of them – have already begun to realize that this will be the coolest English course they have ever experienced. I know. This comment reeks a bit of Donald Trump – so I am abashed in saying it. But it true dammit.
They are studying Into The Wild for their novel. This is a story about a young man who shrugs off all materiality and heads off to become one with the Alaskan wilderness, only to die sadly and alone.
I berate Mackenzie (aka Mack), one of the two teachers, for this absurd choice.
“Why choose a book that is so depressing? We need something more dynamic. Seriously, Into The Wild? Can’t we do better?”
The thing about Mack is that she is filled with such goodness – she lives in Winnie the Pooh’s 100 acre woods with all her bunny buddies – that when she summons a stern response to a challenge, one shrivels into mush out of pure guilt. Mack will shame your teens into becoming human beings by dint of her kindheartedness. They will feel like heels if they get out of line.
I am no exception. Mack Stands her ground.
“Into the Wild is great for experiential learning. Kids relate to alienation. There are moments of pure joy in that book. That’s that.”
I stand corrected. And so will your kids, who are about to do a lot of thinking and writing.
Finally there are the elders, led by Owen, who has this insanely rare quality of being able to play mother and father in the same body. He moonlights in our boarding school as our guidance counsellor – so the dude knows how to listen. His compassion knows no bounds, and your kids already feel safe in his midst. Owen knows how to call kids on their s..t with a rapier wit. I asked him how his group is doing – he responded “pretty good”. You can take that to the bank parents. Owen knows his stuff.
So a pretty solid day one.
Keep your fingers crossed, the journey is young. I’ll write again in three or four days.