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Wow! This post has been up for only one day and already I received four emails on it, a couple good and a couple not so good. Maybe I should explain what this is and why I wrote it.
I have worked for camps that focused on low-income children and I have worked for camps that cater to the wealthy. I was inspired to write the following after I got a call from a snobby, well-to-do parent who was looking to enroll her children. She asked a million ridiculous questions before she decided NOT to enroll them after realizing she had called the wrong camp. (I was wondering why she was asking if we’d still be serving Sushi for lunch this summer.) Let me say for the record that most of the parents that I come in contact with are great, wealthy or not. However, anyone who has worked for a camp, resident or day, that deals with wealthy families will find some truth in this “essay”. It’s all tongue-in-cheek. Please don’t read too much into it.
A lot is expected from camp staff. In fact, more is expected from us then from the camper’s own parents sometimes. While this writing is a humorous dig at parents who can be ridiculous and expect the impossible and unrealistic, it’s also an homage to camp counselors everywhere – past, present and future.
I am a Camp Counselor
Hello Mr. and Mrs. Thurston Howell III. Thank you for choosing our camp to bring little Buffy and Therston IV to. I can see you’re standards are very high for your two children. In fact, I’m not sure any camp will be up to snuff, but we will try.
What’s that you say? You think all the staff should have advanced degrees in psychology, philosophy, medicine, education, team-building dynamics and engineering, as well as advanced ping pong? This is going to be a long summer, isn’t it? Who am I?
Let me introduce myself. I am a Camp Counselor. I understand that if your children do not have a good time it is all my fault. Your wildly unrealistic expectations are, of course, unquestionably valid.
Yes, it’s my fault that our day camp doesn’t have extended day care until 9pm at night, and yes, I understand that camp should start at 5am and provide a full breakfast at no additional cost. I am sorry.
I am a Camp Counselor. I am perfectly capable of escorting three screaming campers to the bathroom, leading a game of dodgeball, making sure Johnny doesn’t eat a roly poly, comforting homesick Hannah, making sure Tommy isn’t picking on Scotty, giving special attention to Susie (who has ADHD but is on “break” from her meds while at camp), attending to Billy’s bee stings and starting a lanyard for Becky – ALL AT THE SAME TIME.
Yes, I understand that your 5 year old son is mature for his age, so of course we can place him and his best friend in the same group as his 12 year old brother and his 14 year old sister, and yes, I understand that your son’s camp counselor last year was the best ever, and that the look on your face and the roll of your eyes means that you’re not thrilled little Johnny has me as his counselor this year. Thank you for believing in me, and for telling little Johnny, right in front of me, that he can text you if he’s not having fun and you’ll come pick him up.
Of course, I’ll be happy to find a camp shirt that doesn’t shrink or make your daughter look fat. Oh, and yes I realize that it is my fault that we are not serving your son’s favorite meal today, gluten-free macaroni and cheese (just like grandma makes) and a Tofurky hot dog with an organic bun. I am sorry.
Yes, our registrar was mistaken when she said there was no space available for this week of sleep-away camp, which starts today, and I can quickly construct several more cabins with indoor bathrooms, Tempur-Pedic beds, hypo-allergenic bedding, and Disney decor, and yes, I’ll make sure that he gets first choice of bunks.
I am a Camp Counselor. Yes, I have seen every Disney and DreamWorks film, and every Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network show and know them all by heart, even the songs, so yes, I will sing them with your daughter at lights out.
Of course, I am available whenever you need a babysitter or someone to lead games at your child’s birthday party. And yes, I do know how, and am willing to make balloon animals, do face painting, perform magic and juggle chainsaws all while wearing a Sponge Bob costume. Of course I know someone who will play Dora the Explorer to accompany me to the party. Sure, cake and ice cream as payment will be fine. Should I bring a gift, too?
Yes, I understand that you don’t have any money on you for camp store purchases and will pay me back for whatever your child buys, I trust you. No, your daughter doesn’t have to do any activity that requires the slightest bit of exertion if she’s tired, or thirsty, or bored, or hot, or cold, or having a bad hair day.
Of course I agree that if we want to survive as a camp we need to be like the other camp your child REALLY wanted to go to that has door-to-door party bus transportation, seventeen different bounce houses, a trapeze, Food Network chefs, circus animals, a professional movie studio, a roller coaster, a water slide, a Jedi training program, a pirate ship (with real pirates) and a herd of unicorns. I’ll speak with the director about that right away.
I am a Camp Counselor. I am expected to empathize, sympathize, compromise, console, discipline (but be a camper’s best friend at the same time), be a mother, a father, a sister, a brother, a favorite uncle, an archer, a sailor, a rock-climber, a lanyard guru, a chef, a secret agent, a lifeguard, a teacher, a conservationist, a musician, a dancer, a singer, a magician, a juggler, a face painter, a storyteller, a naturalist, an actor, an athlete, a protector, a clown and a mentor – all on two hours sleep a night.