Syl Saves the Day - And It Isn't Hard

Here we have a great anecdote from our Assistant Camp Director, Allison Klee from her January Adventures with Jack and Laura. Klee takes a small parent interaction she witnessed visiting one of our board members, Sylvia van Meerten and offers an incredible li’l analysis through her SG Lens. Isn’t she great? Quick aside: I first met Syl in 2015 during Stomping Ground’s first summer when she was approximately six months pregnant and just dominating a 3v3 basketball game. She’s lived up to that energy ever since.

Jack, Laura and I just got back from two weeks on the road attending conferences, visiting staff, hosting recruitment events, meeting new camper families, and visiting with returning camper families as well. We also got to see beautiful sights and ate the best sweet potato pancakes ever.  It was awesome.

Klee during business hours

Klee during business hours

One of the best parts of the trip was visiting Ann Arbor, Michigan. There we got to visit our good friend Syl, and I got to meet some of the awesome camp staff from Camp Tall Tree. Syl had everybody over for dinner and everyone was so welcoming and friendly. No other way to say it other than, “camp people.”

I also got to meet Syl’s daughter, Greta, who is three.  Gretta has a couple nicknames, “The Parm” being my favorite, and after hearing some stories about her, getting to meet her in person was so fun.


Greta was playing on the couch with two boys who are a bit older than her and at one point they got a bit rowdy and Gretta accidentally got hurt. She seemed to be getting nervous and turned to Syl and must have said something along the lines of being hurt, or said she wanted the boys to stop playing what they were playing. Syl said, “Did you say anything to them?” Greta shook her head, and said, “I want you to say something.” Syl replied, “I can say something to them but it will probably be better coming from you.” Greta shook her head again so Syl turned to the other kids and said, “Hey guys. Greta wants me to tell you that she got hurt and doesn’t want to play like this anymore.” The boys nodded and went on to something else. Syl went on with what she was doing. Greta then got up to her own thing as well. All was good.

At Stomping Ground, we talk a lot with our staff about how to navigate these types of conversations and how to best support kids in conflict when they call on us for help. What I think stood out to me most watching Greta and Syl interact in this moment, was that after Syl told Greta she thought it would be better for her to talk to the other kids on her own, and Greta didn’t want to do that, there was no further push or pressure from Syl to make Greta do something she decided she didn’t want to do. I think often times we place too much judgement on kids and get wrapped up in thinking we’re responsible for teaching kids “what’s right” and therefore encourage them to do and say what we think is best. In this situation, Greta decided she wanted her mom to talk to the other kids. Syl simply respected that request and then the conversation was concluded.

Greta and Syl’s conversation seems so simplistic and natural, though I don’t think this is the norm when it comes to how adults interact with and talk to kids. Thinking about how we prepare staff for circles and difficult conversations at Stomping Ground, I think it’s important to remember that it’s not about making sure kids go through every “step” of the circle process or follow any specific dialogue; kids just want to be heard and respected. Sometimes we forget kids know what’s best for them. And if we don’t always agree with kids’ decisions or requests, we can share our perspective respectfully, and move on.

I’m off to ask Klee why Greta is known as “The Parm”.



Allison Klee