Cousin Camp

Cousin Camp finally happened. This was one of the best things we’ve ever been a part of. I think the 8 cousins (+2 close friends) will have an amazing memory of this week. The kids ranged from 5 to 12 years old.


7:30am-9am: Breakfast, making beds, getting dressed

9am: A chess coach would come teach for an hour.

10am-noon: Our boys amazing preschool teacher Jen came and led the kids through thoughtful activities.

Noon-2pm: Lunch break and play

2pm-4pm: Second session with Jen

4pm-6pm: Swimming pool (lots of Blind Man’s Bluff with Fish Out Of Water rules), Nerf battles, badminton, feeding the neighbor’s cat, and games like Throw Throw Burrito and A Fake Artist Goes To New York.

6pm til bedtime: Dinner, play, and music rehearsals for the open mic we went to in town Friday night. [A piano and group vocal cover of Ed Sheeran’s Perfect and a piano cover of Vanessa Carlton’s Thousand Miles]

A few additional notes

  • The theme of the week was communication. Being an active, empathetic listener, looking out for each other, making sure your tone matches what you want to project into the world. Jen is a master teacher and our first call for behavioral questions. She is another hero I try to emulate. Her touch balances firmness and love. Toughness and understanding. An example is when one child hurts another she doesn’t force them to say “sorry” because she knows it’s an empty sentiment when done at gunpoint. Instead, she facilitates a dialogue between the children that surfaces the “why” of the action and the victim can express how they feel. Most of the time, the offender apologizes genuinely because you can see them really perceive the other person’s POV.
  • Dinner was Yinh’s favorite part of the week. She would lead some pretty thoughtful discussions about how we treat each other and act generally. The kids one by one describe the day’s highs and lows and the reasons for that. They are asked to point out which actions other kids did were helpful or considerate. It’s truly awesome to see what kids notice. If anything, it’s a reminder to give them lots of credit. Their observational skills often surprised us to the upside.A moment I want to memorialize in case I read this in 10 years. Maddox thought his treatment was a result of his “reputation” and that was something Yinh really unpacked with him. The gist of it — you don’t need to conform to the expectations of others. It was insanely mature for a 10-year-old best known for bouncing around the room to realize that some of his actions were guided not by what he wanted but by his “reputation” and being freed of that was a moment of unlocking in his eye. And that’s the point. He’s so much more than a boisterous 10-year old and that wildness is a feature not a bug. Maybe some adults could benefit from realizing their reputation doesn’t need to define all aspects of their life. There’s more to existence than expected value or being smart or being able to do X. Maybe allowing yourself multiple identities relieves pressure.
  • Some of the activities:Building boxes that they had to drill together and pain before creating a scene inside. Some kids made things like a labyrinth or pinball machine.

    Bridge building contest like you did in science class

    Kids would each pull an “Angel” card in the morning. The card would give them a trait to be extra mindful of for the day.

    Kids would be expected to clean after every module and by Day 2 they were doing this unprompted. They’d close the pool, put away all the toys, set the table, and take out the garbage.

  • Date nights. That’s what the other parents got to do while the kids were with us all week. They were all sending us pics of the restaurants and bars they were enjoying every night. Yinh and I even fashioned our own dates. We’d play Wingspan every night after the kids went to bed. I have yet to beat her. Grr.

Finally, it’s worth remembering it takes a village. My mother-in-law was a saint, prepping all meals. More than half the kids were her grandkids which made the week extra sweet. Seeing all the plates laid out, all the kids crammed into bedrooms on makeshift sleeping arrangements, and those beautiful in-between moments when the kids scattered all over the backyard, front yard or in various rooms just organizing their own fun. Even the oldest cousin’s bunny, Olaf, had a great time getting love from so many little hands.

Cousin’s Camp Year 1 was a massive success and we can’t wait to do it again next year.

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