Noise. Constant noise. Spills. Half-eaten lunches. Picky eaters. Plain bagels. Straw wrappers. Untied shoelaces. Unscented sunscreen that you can smell from a mile away. Lost water bottles. Lost hats. Lost sweaters. Lost underwear. Yes, lost underwear. Goggles that are too tight. Swim trunks that are too loose.
This is my fourth summer working at camp. I thought I had seen it all. I thought I had heard every complaint. I thought I had smelled every smell. I was wrong.
Every single day there is something different. Something I’ve never seen before. If there were a television series about summer camp, it could go on for 100 seasons without ever repeating a storyline.
Being a camp counsellor is harder than it sounds. If one of my kids does something wrong, it’s my fault.
Why wasn’t I around? Why didn’t I prevent the situation? Why didn’t I run across the field and do something? Why was my back turned? Why didn’t I tell them not to do something before I knew they were going to do it?
By the end of the day, when all the kids have left, I am drained. I am tired. I am sore. I am wondering what that is on the floor.
I look back on my elementary school days and wonder how my teachers did it. How they controlled a classroom of thirty children and got us to stay at our desks. I can’t get my kids to sit still for five minutes before they start wandering off to nowhere in particular.
Sitting down to eat lunch is a lost art. Some kids would rather walk around with a sandwich hanging out of their mouth. Some kids claim they “aren’t hungry.” Some kids don’t like the lunch their parents packed for them, but adore their snacks.
What can I do about it? Very little. I can’t go to their house and make their lunch. I can’t shove the food in their mouth. I can encourage them with “take three more bites” or “you can’t do this, if you don’t eat that”, but they have to physically put the food in their own mouth.
It’s such a struggle.
When I was a kid, I was a vacuum. If it was sitting in front of me, it would soon be sitting inside of me. Even the crumbs.
After lunch, there’s swimming. We take a school bus to get to the pool.
What is it about a yellow school bus that triggers something in a kid’s mind that they must run to it?
I can’t get them to run to lunch, but they’ll run to a yellow school bus. Maybe we should serve lunch on the bus?
It’s as if they think there won’t be any seats left on the bus. As if they will be left behind because they didn’t get a seat. Since when are they excited to sit down? Or maybe they just want to sit at the back of the bus. Why is the back of the bus always the most coveted?
So many questions.
The backseat of a car is never coveted. People call “shotgun” so they can sit in the front and everyone obliges. Yet the back of the bus has an allure that can’t be matched.
Some things will never change, I guess. Like Pokemon cards. When will they die? Yeah, I said it. I don’t know the first thing about Pokemon, Pokemon cards, or why kids for the last 15+ years have been so fascinated with them.
I’ve never understood what made one card better than the other or how you can play with them. It’s just text on a card, is it not? Here, let me get a pen and change some numbers on the card. Now tell me if it’s still good or not.
Camp is just different, man, it’s just different.
Nothing really compares to it.
It’s kinda like school, but not exactly. Though if two counsellors of opposite genders are seen talking to each other a lot, then the whole camp will think something is going on between them. If they hug, that confirms they’re dating. So in that sense, camp is very much like the petty hallways of high school. Except there are little kids around who have snot hanging from their nose.
Camp is a place that can make you so tired and stressed, yet so happy at the same time.
It is a place where you can make a kid laugh, or smile, or think, or skip around a room because it’s their birthday.
It is a place where food competitions end within seconds, while cheaters (me) are caught on video camera.
It is a place that will beat up counsellors on a daily basis, but will drag us out of bed the next day for another round of “What will happen today?”
It is camp.
There is no place quite like it.