Camp Woodland Blog

It Starts by Making Your Bed Each Morning

As I struggled to straighten the sheets, blankets and pillows on my bed this morning, I am reminded that one of the first things I do at camp each day is make my top bunk bed. I stand on the frame of the bottom bunk and wrangle the thick comforter (that is out of view at the foot of the bed in the photo below – gotta love the often chilly Northern Wisconsin summer nights!) and other bedding items into place. I then get dressed and place my PJ’s on my pillow so they are in position for my evening routine. Now I am truly ready to start my day!

We often hear from parents in those first days/weeks after camp, that their camper/s is/are faithful about making her bed every morning, picking up clutter around the bedroom/house, brushing teeth, and pitching in with daily chores without batting an eye. My question is…is your camper still in the habit of doing those beginning of day routines?

Truth be told, I can honestly say that I am not great about this particular ritual once I am home from camp. For one, there is a good chance that my husband is still sleeping when I get up (especially on weekends), so it is kind of hard to make a bed when someone is in it! Then I get busy with other routines: making coffee, assembling a yogurt parfait for my husband’s car ride to work, taking the dogs for a walk, exercising, etc. By the time I get through with all of that, I may straighten out the sheets a bit and take a quick pass at the top cover with a lint roller to remove the excess of dog hair, but that is about it. Many days, I completely forget about my unmade bed and jump into other tasks and projects (which usually does not include taking a shower!).

In listening recently to part of a commencement speech given by Navy Seal Admiral William H. McRaven and reading the first chapter of his book “Make Your Bed,” I am rethinking the importance of what often seems at surface level to be a very mundane and insubstantial task. McRaven even goes so far to say, “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.” Wow, what?! How does making my bed help me change the world? Explanation, please! As you may know, Navy SEAL training is some of the toughest training around, both physically and mentally. Each day starts with an inspection of the uniform and bed by an instructor with a critical eye for neatness and perfection.

McRaven actually didn’t mind the simple task of making his bed while in the Navy – he came to appreciate that it was the one constant he could count on every day. It was the one thing he knew he could do without fail. And, he could do it well. It was something to be proud of. Being the first of many tasks in a given 24 hours, sometimes success can be measured just by completing something (even if it is small). If one task is completed, then follows another and another. Next thing you know, a whole string of tasks have been executed, and from that comes a sense of pride and accomplishment. Sometimes in a world where there is little control, making your bed IS the one sure thing in your control. Why not begin each day with a win?!

All campers and staff start the day by making their bed (and why snuggling up in a sleeping bag is a fun change of pace on a canoe overnight adventure as you see in the photos). It is even part of the “scoring” for when the nurse and CIT on duty come around to “inspect” cabins. Having a neat bed may be the difference in earning a pizza party or trip to Cathy’s for being the cabin with the high “score” at the end of each week. Making your bed is the beginning of many opportunities to be successful throughout the camp day. From there it might be that a bullseye is hit in archery, a horse can be approached without being nervous, a mooring is made in sailing, a new food is tried at lunch, water-skiing is attempted during Rec Swim, and participating in skit at campfire becomes fun (and not dreaded).

Being away from camp at this moment in time, what if we get back to the routine of starting the day off with a simple, yet achievable task? The mere act of making the bed can then lead to turning in homework on time, asking a question in class, sitting by someone outside a friend group in the cafeteria, feeling confident before a quiz or test, finishing a report a few days before it is due, complimenting someone on their effort on the field or court, and so much more.

I know I’m going to work at doing better to make MY bed each morning. A win in the first 5 minutes of the day sounds like a no-brainer! Will you and your camper/s join me? It might just be a little thing that turns into some BIGGER things that change how things go in life AND in the world.