I have often heard Anne talk about the summer weekends when she and her husband took their eight nieces and one nephew to their cottage at Wasaga Beach; they called these weekends “Camp Wain” (Anne’s married surname is Wain). It is a beautiful summer day, and it seems like the right time to share some of the story with you.
Let’s start with the first Camp Wain Weekend …
Anne was acutely aware that she would be responsible for the safety of nine children under the age of twelve; the youngest was just 16 months old. Before asking the parents if they would trust her and her husband with the children, she thought about the challenges and how to address them with the parents:
Far from home
At the beach
Only one boy
The parents all agreed to allow their children to participate, and Anne went into high gear! She created a packing list and a template for temporary guardianship (in case of emergency); she asked the parents to include the signed letter, instructions and medications, and each child’s health card. Anne also asked the parents to add to the packing list whatever other items their child brought (e.g., teddy bear) and put the packing list into their bag so she could be sure nothing was left at the cottage or placed into the wrong bag when it was time to go home.
Having kept track of the children’s favorite meals during previous family gatherings, Anne knew what to feed them and used her home economics training to determine the required quantities. In addition, there was an itinerary for the weekend and a backup plan in case it rained (and all these children would be stuck inside for the day).
One of Anne’s colleagues created red tee-shirts for all camp participants, with Anne’s favorite bird, a cardinal, and Camp Wain stencilled on the front. Why red? Well, Cardinals are red, and her charges would be easy to spot at the beach where Anne knew she would constantly be counting heads.
At the time, they were living in Calgary, so she and her husband flew to Toronto, rented two cars then headed off to collect their complement of children. They met up at MacDonald’s on the highway and fed the children “Happy Meals” before travelling in tandem to the cottage.
Baths all around, and the children were ready for a story and off to bed.
Anne gathered them around, all sitting nicely on the floor, and instead of a story, they discussed the Camp Wain rules. First of all, Anne told them she would not be yelling at them; she had a police whistle and if they heard it, they were to find her immediately and sit down. She told them that their job was to listen when she was talking. Each child (except the 16-month-old) was assigned a buddy and charged with sticking together.
All the towheads were nodding seriously, and Anne asked them what they thought should happen if someone misbehaved. They all looked at her with round eyes (likely having been threatened with dire consequences if they misbehaved while with their Aunt and Uncle). No one spoke up. Anne persisted, asking what should happen if someone threw sand, for example.
“My mom would spank for that,” said one child, “Ohhh, hmmm, well, maybe a time out?” offered another and a third piped up, “How about if we just don’t throw sand?”
Anne asked if they could all agree about not throwing sand – eight heads nodded – and if someone did, they would have a time out – again, eight heads nodded solemnly.
The next morning, Anne dressed them all in bathing suits and gave them each a red tee-shirt; she reminded them that they were to stay with their buddy at all times in case they needed help and what to do if they heard her blow the whistle. And she gave them a mantra: “We’re the Camp Wain Cardinals, and we don’t throw sand!”
And finally, she asked,
“When I am talking, what are you doing?” A chorus of “We’re listening” went up,
and Anne smiled.
“Let’s go to the beach,” Anne said as she picked up the youngest. “Everyone, find your buddy and hold hands as we walk on the footpath to the beach.”
When they were all lined up, holding hands, Anne asked them, “Who are we?” Again, a chorus of childish voices,
“We’re the Camp Wain Cardinals and we DON’T throw sand!”
Did you enjoy that story? Let me know cause there’s more!