I have a 7 year old daughter who takes ballet every Tuesday. She doesn’t like when I watch, so I don’t (until the last 5 minutes, because then it’s too late for her to get mad at me). The dance recital is next week, so right now the class is working on perfecting their moves. Some of the kids are pretty good, some are OK and some are all over the place—but what struck me was everyone was just doing their thing, and doing their best. No one was rolling their eyes if a leap was off, and no one made a big deal if someone was a step behind.
When class was over, I started chatting with one of the teachers about how great it is that the kids in that class are totally tolerant of one another. He said that as kids get older, unfortunately, that usually changes.
I get that. With dance, as kids progress, the choreography becomes less “cute” and more serious—it’s not always going to be as OK to be a step behind. But still, it makes me sad that some kids are hard on other kids (probably the kids who can’t keep up) because I would think that in most any given situation, the “stars” will still shine regardless of how the other kids are doing. In fact, they might even shine more.
But you know how kids are. They don’t know how things work. I see it all the time at camp. (My husband is a director at an overnight camp for kids so we live there during the summer.) I have noticed as kids get older, they become less tolerant. The cool thing about camp though, is that everyone gets a chance to slow down and truly appreciate their surroundings. And that includes the people surrounding them.
At camp, kids get a good dose of time management because there are things they have to be on time for: Meals, Activities, Flag Pole, Milk and Cookies (especially milk and cookies or I will eat them all). But punctuality and independence are not the only skills kids develop at camp—they also learn to connect in new ways, they learn to work as a unit, and they learn to tolerate others. These are values they learn whether they want to or not. They have no other choice. It’s camp.
Kids who act a little “different” at home might not be accepted at school, but they have a place at camp. And they should. There is no reason for any kid at camp not to be nice to another kid, I don’t care how weird the kid is. Who are you that you can’t hang with that kid? You think you’re so cool? YOUR FLY’S DOWN! And yes, that kid might be a little weird, but you need to accept him for who he is. No one is telling you to make him a BFF lanyard, but if he lands next to you at dinner, just deal.
I love that the kids at camp are forced to tolerate and connect with others in their peer group. That’s a very important skill. Some of the kids are bare bones and they tolerate just enough not to get stuck “having a talk” with me, but some of them actually celebrate the kids who are a little different. They include them and embrace them.
The kids who do that, those are the smart kids. They know that the ones who are a little “different” are also the ones who make a difference. The kids who are “different” are the ones we learn from, and usually the ones we end up working for.
Don’t rule out the weirdos, yo. They’re the ones to watch.
The camp dynamic is such that even when that time in our life is over, we are still (and always) bound by something bigger that holds us together no matter the amount of time, the distance, or the differences in personalities. If you have that history, that intense living experience, it’s binding and it’s forever.
But every kid doesn’t get to go to overnight camp. So what do you do if your kid isn’t able to experience that kind of communal living and an invisible thread that holds everyone together? How else can they learn tolerance?
Well, there are a few ways:
1. You can join a cult. But I’m not recommending that. That never seems to end well.
2. You can teach at home.
Home is a safe place where the atmosphere isn’t competitive, it‘s collaborative, so home seems like a good place to start. A good kid usually comes from a good home. Kids listen to their parents, even if they pretend not to, and as parents, it’s on us to talk to our kids about how to treat others. It’s on us to show them how to be tolerant by being tolerant ourselves.
We come into contact every day with people who aren’t so easy. Most everyone has their moments, and some people are straight-up annoying. It would be nice if we all held on a little bit longer to the mentality we had when we were younger—that mentality of complete acceptance and utter obliviousness—but it gets harder as we get older, we have to make more of an effort.
And sometimes it’s work.
But if our kids see us doing it, maybe they will do it too. Zero tolerance for zero tolerance.
Gotta start somewhere, right?
Thanks for being here!
Facebook : DimSumandDoughnuts
Love this post!! I agree that the key is to show your children by your own actions. Monkey see, monkey do!!
Except if they’re the ones who we need to tolerate, right? Loophole!! Thanks so much, Marci. I am so happy you liked it. Thank you!!
love that my kids chose tanuga & not to go to camp with kids from their neighborhood, school etc…they can go to camp & have the freedom to be whomever they want to be…& learn to live with others they may rather not!! they are better people because of that.
Maddy!! I feel like a famous person is commenting! But beyond that, you are truly one of the best moms I know, and ANYONE who knows you feels that way. If camp made them better (and I hope it did) it’s only because they came from one of the only other homes in the world that I would be comfortable sending my own kids. Truth.
And thank you for commenting. (BTW). 🙂
Jake V says
how are you so good with your words
Jake V–You are crazy cool. Thank you, love!! I love that you like it. 🙂 We’re going to have a fun summer!!!
Robyn, I loved this. Camp Tanuga should be a required stop for all Michigan graduates, so they have those skills they need going into college or the work force.
Yeah, you know, that skill of appreciating others for who they are? Seeing the good in people, even when they are letting their freak flag fly in some way.
I think that sometimes, our intentions toward tolerance have to be summed up in that one simple phrase: “Treat others as you would like to be treated.” We are fortunate in that, while elementary school can be a hard testing ground for these ideas, KIddo’s judo club models the attitude of tolerance you are promoting at Camp Tanuga. Having other entities besides mom and dad back up what we are saying is beyond value. We joke that we would pay the Sensei to just sit and talk with the kids; he makes an impression and thus, the attitude is so welcoming and kind among the kids — and Kiddo makes me leave too!– that I know he’s in good hands when I am gone and receiving something he wouldn’t get at school, where teachers are more inclined to tell an annoyed kid to ‘just ignore’ another child than to try and build any bridges between them.
Good for Camp Tanuga and good for you and Cody in seeing how important it is to model this life skill!
Hazel, you are truly amazing. My dad was all about the Golden Rule when I was growing up. In fact, I can’t believe I didn’t say something about that in the post. Maybe I should add it? You are brilliant and managed to “bottom line” what I was trying to say PERFECTLY. How do you always do that??? It’s like you’re in my head!
I also love what you said about “building bridges.” I am putting that one in my arsenal for sure. Girl, I don’t know where you came from, but I’m sure glad you found me. I always learn something from you and I know all the people reading your comments do too. You are a treasure!! For realz. XOXOXO!!!!!
Thank you so much for writing this post. I really teared up reading it. I have an exceptional child and never would have considered sleep away camp but after reading this, maybe he would like Tanuga in a few years. My son is only in Kindergarten and already kids look at him like he is weird when really all he wants is to fit in and have friends. Thanks again.
Hi Stacy! I’m so happy that you connected with the post (but I’m sorry you got teary.) I know how that goes.
Just from your comment, I have no doubt that your son is exceptional. It’s sad, and wrong, that so many view “exceptional” as “weird,” but I know how that goes too. Camp would be a great place for him, if not Tanuga, any camp where he fits in and feels comfortable and celebrated. When he’s ready, or you feel he’s ready, we’ll be around.
I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. It makes me happy to know that there are other people out there who feel as adamant about this topic as I do. Thank you so much and I hope to see you back here one day soon!!
katie zack says
straight up!love this one Robyn,love how you do you…..xoKatie
You’re amazing, KZ. You could be one of the most inspirational people that I know of (TRUTH) so for you to say that to me…means the WORLD. Thank you. I’m going to hang onto that all day.
Thank you!!!!!!! XOXOXOXO x a million.