For the past four years, I’ve held a small summer camp for an interesting group of boys. It was started by a client of mine who thought it would be fun to have a camp in her backyard, but needed some help. We started when the boys were just six years old, and since then, we’ve held the camp for one week every August. I have to say, it’s a very unique group of boys! Each of them has special gifts ranging from sports, to music, to engineering. They are clever, witty, and very bright, and they get along really well with each other. It’s been a special treat watching them grow up.
Each day of camp has a different theme: science, sports, “backyard ballistics,” and so on, in order to embrace all of the myriad talents that the group of boys possesses. It’s a yearly challenge for me, coming up with new and exciting projects that will push the boys to work together (or sometimes by themselves), and open them up to new experiences.
The other day, I thought it would be fun to try the “egg experiment.” For those of you who are unfamiliar, it’s a challenge where you must safely transport a raw egg twenty feet (or more) without any direct human contact. Pulleys, ramps, and slides may all be used, but a human hand may not touch the egg nor its container once it has been put in motion. And of course, the most important thing: the egg cannot break in transit.
When I first gave the boys the challenge, I had visions of strings tied to containers and winches that would pull the egg across the yard, or maybe long ramps made out of cardboard and wood. What I wasn’t prepared for was flying eggs and egg funerals!
The most exciting part was watching my nine-year-old inventors grasp the challenge and take off in teams without any prompting or adult supervision. They were off like a shot! Some chose to work in teams, and others by themselves, but what was interesting was how they seemed to naturally break off into groups as if they had been assigned from the start. It was as if some boys had a magnetic pull that drew them together. And amazingly, these teams (and the individuals) all worked really well within themselves and with the other groups. There was no sense of competition, only determination and focus. Each group was set on achieving their goal, but equally fascinated by how others had accomplished the task.
I’m sure that a real school teacher would frown on my version of this “eggs-periment,” because when the boys asked me if they could use the zipline installed in the backyard as a means of transport, I of course said “Yes!” But it’s my summer camp, and I figure if the boys came up with the idea to use the zipline, why not let them use it? After all, the zipline ended up presenting its own challenges, especially with momentum! We had some spectacular egg “deaths.” One must have catapulted twenty feet after the zipline hit its limit. It was a sight to see, and a cause of much cheering by all!
What I hadn’t expected in the course of these experiments were the egg funerals. The boys mourned the loss of each egg that gave its life. It was hysterical! There were tombstones made, graves dug, and keening -- yes, keening! -- by the gravesites. There were eulogies exulting the heroic eggs that had given their lives for the betterment of mankind, and egg carton “limousines” who pulled up with the survivors so that they could pay their respects to their fallen comrades.
As I watched these proceedings I felt an odd prickling in the back of my eyes. I was actually getting teary! Watching as the boys immersed themselves in this off the cuff role play made me feel like the Grinch at Christmas – my heart practically grew three sizes that day, and I felt like it was going to burst out of my overalls. I turned to my assistant Jane, and I could see she was feeling it too. There was just something really magical and wonderful about what was happening – children completely immersed in creativity. And it was then that I got a tiny taste of what it might mean to actually be a parent – to be privy to that unadulterated joy daily.
I’m not a parent, but this experience gave me the briefest of glimpses into what it must feel like to be one. It blew me away. I have the utmost respect for parents and caretakers; it’s a full-time job, nurturing and protecting little minds and bodies. I know it’s not a job I can take on myself, but sometimes my work allows me a small taste of what it’s like to share in that responsibility, and I can’t thank God enough for letting me have this gift.
Now, anyone up for some scrambled eggs?