My Life as a Summer Camp Counselor
The current state of the economy and the idea that I will be paying tuition at some institution of higher learning or another for my child in 14 short months has forced me to find gainful employment outside of the magazine, freelancing and teaching this summer. Yes, dear friends, I'm working as a counselor at a summer camp.
If you've never had the pleasure, let me tell you - it can be both one of the most trying and the most rewarding gigs ever (so they tell me, anyway; I haven't see much of the "rewarding" part, just the "trying" end of things)...
So if you are a parent whose only experience with summer camp before sending your kids was going to one 30 years ago, here are some things you should know:
1. Your kids are going to CAMP - not the daggone Mojave Desert. They do not need enough food for a small army or 10 water bottles. Trust me - they can't possible eat and drink all that in 7-8 hours, although they think they can and may actually try.
2. Encourage your child to do things for him/herself. That includes carrying oversized backpacks and lunch boxes from the car to the sign-in spot each day. Because when you're not around, they expect me to do it instead - and I'm. Just. Not.
3. If your child cannot carry, lift, pull, push or snap it by him/herself, leave it at home. This applies to complicated zippered clothing, jumbo coolers and the afore-mentioned gargantuan back packs with three changes of clothing and enough snacks to feed an entire day care center for a week (see #1 above).
4. And while we're on the subject of food, please be mindful of the garbage you are packing for your kids and just...don't. Know that if you give Jane a bag of chocolate chip cookies and explicit directions to only eat them after lunch, she's gonna gobble them down before 10am. Don't want an obese kid with health issues? Start by giving that kid something better to choose from than a 6-foot "fruit" roll up and a "juice" box that has absolutely no juice in it.
5. Your child will undoubtedly have a disagreement with another camper at some point during the summer. Just know that, even if he/she insists that the other kid started it, chances are your child was not totally innocent. If you think he/she is, I'll bet you $100 bucks you're wrong.
6. If your child cannot tie his/her shoes, swallow your pride and buy Junior some sneakers with Velcro. Flopping shoe laces are very much a safety issue when there are about 30 other pairs of feet that can trip over them, but it also drives counselors mad to have to tie 60 little light-up sneakers 15 times a day. I'm not kidding.
7. Teach your kid the basics of "please" and "thank you" if you would. Nothing spells "no home training" faster than having Little Suzie stick a yogart cup in your face while saying "Open this!"
8. Lots of thought went into planning the activities scheduled. Not participating is rude (can't tell you how many times I hear "But I don't wanna _________!" each day) , disruptive ('cause someone's gotta watch your kid while he isn't with the rest of the group) and a flat out waste of my time and your money. Think about it: he/she could stay at home and do nothing and it would cost you absolutely nothing, too, right?
9. Follow the camp guidelines on what to dress your child in. If swimming is part of the camp schedule, have them wear a swim suit under their clothes so an extra 15 minutes won't need to be alloted so your child to find his/her stuff, make a way to the changing room, get the swim suit on, then put all the clothes they took off somewhere they can find them when it's time to change back. And if closed-toed shoes are required, don't let them wear flip flops! Nobody can really run and play in flip flops, no matter how cute they may look. Seriously, it just can't be done.
10. If you don't want to clutter up your fridge door with yet another piece of "art" by your budding genius, that's too damn bad. Today, a mom asked a counselor to hold the slightly wet 4th of July flag painting her child had done until Tuesday (the next day of camp - which is after the 4th, BTW) because she'd borrowed her sister's Bentley and didn't want to risk getting "anything" in/on it. You don't hafta take it home, but you've got to take it out of the arts and crafts room or there won't be an ounce of space left to work on anything else for the whole summer. Our space is limited. Handle your business.
It's only been a week, so I'm sure I'll come up with more as the summer progresses. Seriously, moms - an ounce of prevention really does go a long way. I'm just sayin'...