Summer camp was once something more like a luxury, when stay-at-home Moms ruled the roost and there was less need to keep the kids safely occupied. In today’s two-wage-earner families, though, summer camp is often a necessity. It’s the only way a lot of kids can maintain any sort of social contact with their peers in today’s cloistered, protective environment.
The alternative? Babysitters or latchkey kids, often considered a less favorable choice.
Maybe you grew up when kids spent summer days outside playing from early until dinner time — and maybe playing some more outside afterward. We rode bikes (no helmets), skateboards (no helmets or knee/elbow pads) and built forts in the woods. After dinner, we played “Red Light, Green Light” and TV freeze tag (there were a lot fewer shows then, before cable).
If someone fell and broke an arm, it was part of the fabric of summer — not the subject of legal negligence in our “somebody has to be to blame” society.
Baby boomers reading this have likely encountered those cute little Internet treatises describing how wonderful life used to be when we drank out of the hose, bought penny candy, and were reprimanded by neighbors when we did wrong. Yeah, and I also fondly remember our black-and-white TV.
Anyway, our daughter is attending a YMCA camp this summer.
Once again, there were first-day jitters upon drop-off — but they were mine, not hers.
I was lucky to get a kiss blown my way as she scrambled out of the car.
The folks running this show have it down to a science. It’s extremely well organized — plenty of hands on deck, multiple clipboards, walkie-talkies. There’s a lot the local Board of Elections could learn here.
So young daughter vanishes into the inner sanctum of summer camp.
Is this a good time describe how I forgot her water bottle (on a sweltering day, of course)? Serious Dad guilt. I called. I drove to camp. I dropped off the water bottle, after going to two wrong doors. I was assured she’d get it.
When I picked her up that afternoon, I apologized for forgetting her water bottle and asked to make sure she got it.
Oh, she got it. “Did you refill this bottle today?” I said, eyeing it. “It’s almost to the top.”
“No, I guess I wasn’t that thirsty.”
Most parents are familiar with the brief responses you get to complex questions like, “How was school today”?”
“It was OK.”
“How was camp today?”
“It was OK.”
“What did you do?”
“Did you do anything else?”
“I’m hungry. Did you bring a snack?”
Well, I’m thinking, did she eat the lunch I packed?
Pushing a little harder:
“What was your favorite part?
“The girls’ locker room. I got my own locker to put all my stuff in while I was swimming.”
Fantastic. This is the kid who perpetually leaves a trail of dirty socks, pajamas, shoes, doll clothing …
Then it became clear to me — the solution to the clothing scattered throughout the house.
We needed to put a locker in her room.
(More on summer camp in my next column. I know, you can barely contain your enthusiasm. CW)