To the administration and parents our bunk is called 5B, but to the men that live inside, we are The Man Cave. The Man Cave is a place where men can be men! Don’t get me wrong, we are civil, we brush our teeth, respectful, shower, and put on the closest clothes that don’t smell terrible. But there is no question that 5B is the cabin that the men reside in.
For the first couple of nights of camp, my cabin was full of shy and apprehensive campers who had never been to camp before. I played team building games with them, we went on hikes, and they were having a good time, something just didn’t feel right. They chatted and played games, but it felt like they were all waiting for their parents to come through the door and take them back home. So on the 4th night, my co-counselor and I took our boys down to the beach for a campfire. There we buried our feet in sand, watched the stars, ate s’mores, and the campers seemed to relax and enjoyed being in the moment. So before the night was over I had all of the boys to huddle around the fire.
As they stood silently around the fire, watching the embers burn my co-counselor and I started to whisper, “men, men, men, men”. The boys looked at us questionably, but as my co-counselor and I started to get louder, they joined in. So here we were chanting with all of our might that we were men and we clicked. We walked back to our cabin chatting softly about how Billy had covered his entire torso in sand and that Graham had eaten 4 s’mores when they were only allowed 2. But they walked as a unit, instead of individuals.
Once we were back in our bunk the boys seemed to be more at ease with their new home and each other. They weren’t always looking at the door expecting a parent to come through, but became for focused on what was happening around them at that moment. A couple of days later, my camper John came back from the wood-shop with a huge grin of his face and carrying something under his arm. He had made a sign which had “The Man Cave” engraved on it. The campers, my co-counselor, and I all loved it. We hung it inside above our door and touched it everyday before heading out to experience what camp had to offer that day. ‘The Man Cave’ became a bit of a safe haven for the campers, where they knew they could be themselves without judgement. On the last day of camp John asked if the sign could stay up for future men to have. So we left it up, for the future men of cabin 5B to experience. When the next session of campers walked through the doors, red eyes and quiet, my co-counselor and I knew that the sign would be an instrumental part of bringing our campers closer together once again.