By Elisabeth Bomford, School-Age Care/Sunfun Program
I was just in the middle of asking which child I was going to be paired with for inclusion for the summer, and before my colleague could answer, my new little buddy made himself known to me! I walked over and introduced myself, but, like the child, he had just been yelling at, my name didn’t matter. “Idiot!” he screamed back at me.
We talked it out, got a ball returned, and apologized for our language. I say “we” and “our” because immediately it was a team effort. It had to be, I had to become his best friend, and he quickly became mine. The rest of the day was fine, transitions were difficult, but they always are on the first day of camp.
The next day started more smoothly. On our out-trip to Fort Rodd Hill, we had a great bus ride, sat with friends, ‘played’ guitar, and even took pictures of the scenery. But then we had to eat lunch. To him, that didn’t mean eating lunch; it meant ending play, which was, at the very least, unacceptable. “Stop,” he screamed at me, while I sat cross-legged with his lunch in front of me.
“What am I doing that’s frustrating you?” I asked.
“You’re blocking my hits, and I just want to punch you!”
I almost laughed. It was such a strange transition, from being upset about us needing to eat and sit in the shade, to being upset that I wouldn’t let him hit me.
“I can’t let you hit me, it hurts, but when you’re done, we can eat and start playing again.”
For a while, that became our script. He would run away, and I would stand in his path. He would knock over my block tower; I would ask him to build it back up with me. He would hit a ukulele against the ground, and I would stop singing with him. Give and take, right?
Within a couple of weeks though, there was a shift.
“Can we go play, just you and me?”
“I need to go for a walk.”
“Can we build a tower together?”
Finally, we were becoming a duo. He ate parts of his lunch, and I’d let him crunch my eggshells. He’d narrate a message for mom, I’d write it on a picture he drew. He joined the group art projects, sat with more friends, played more games.
We were both lucky. SunFun 2018 was hot, smoky, and long, but we were both beyond blessed to have the support we needed. The teams at Cridge and Queen Alexandra were full of resources to try, and sometimes discard, but we had fun mixing it up and finding a pattern that worked for us.
Finally, our last week came. I was constantly on the verge of tears, remembering the beginning of our summer and how much had happened since then. Just as I was about to ask another leader to give me a break so I could rinse my teary face, my buddy came up to me. He held out a pool noodle, and I hesitated to grab it. What would it be today? A horse? A sword? A walking stick?
“Hold it to your ear,” he told me. Oh, a telephone.
“What are you going to do? I need you to be gentle with my ears, or they can hurt.”
At this point, he rarely acted out for a reaction. Sometimes though, we did need to be reminded that even playing can hurt someone if they’re not ready.”
“I won’t scream.” He looked up at me, more seriously than I’ve ever been looked at before. “I promise.”
I made a show of raising the ‘phone’ to my ear, and, although I trusted him, got ready to pull it away just in case. He whispered something, but I couldn’t hear it.
“I’m sorry, can you repeat that? It was a teeny bit too quiet for me.”
He looked at me as if I’d asked him to run up Mount Doug. With a sigh, he raised the other end of the pool noodle to his mouth.
“I love you, idiot.”
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