Whether this is your child's first summer camp experience or their 5th, they're likely in a new stage of childhood each year. They might have unique challenges or successes going on in their lives this year, and they're about to be the responsibility of another person for a week or more. What would you say to or hope for in their camp counselor?
Summer Camp Counselor Experience
A while back, I was a camp counselor. I can honestly say that those were some of my most fond, young adult memories. Each week, parents would bring their most precious gifts and entrust them to me and my fellow counselors. Sometimes we'd get parents who had trouble saying goodbye and other times, it was the kids who weren't ready for mom and dad to leave them. As a young adult, I was a bit confused as to why parents would make such a big deal out of leaving their kids behind when camp was so fun. Honestly, I sometimes got irritated when the hugs and kisses went on for too long.
A Big Change
However, one huge thing changed me. I became a mom. Now, I'm the one having trouble saying goodbye and find myself grilling those camp counselors as if they were suspects in a crime investigation. Because I worked at the same camp that my children attend, I've even gone as far as to ask special permission so that I could go to their bunkhouse to make their beds. Yeah. I know. I became "that parent." As the years go on and my children get older, I've been doing better and my husband has never been so grateful. My overprotective antics may have made him slightly uncomfortable. In order to channel that worry into something useful, I've decided to pen this letter to my children's camp counselor. I hope it is something that resonates with you, too.
To my child's camp counselor:
I'm sure it is unconventional to receive a letter from your camper's mom, but if I am going to leave my child in your capable hands for the next six days, there are a few things I want you to know.
First of all, I realize that you are first aid trained and that you say that you are going to keep my child safe. I also realize that accidents are sometimes not preventable. With that said, I am a firm believer that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Encouraging my child or anyone else's to partake in contests that have dangerous repercussions is not a good idea. Mac and cheese eating contests or seeing who can run down the side of the mountain might seem fun and harmless at the time, but I can assure you that it's not a good idea. Take time and plan ahead. Have a "bag of tricks" ready at the drop of a hat so if you end up with down time or if you want to make things more interesting, you are ready with safe and well prepared activities. As long as you keep my child's safety in the forefront of your mind, I promise to trust you and not question your decisions.
Second, summer camp is about having valuable experiences and making friends. If I wanted my child to engage in unhealthy social situations, I would've made arrangements for that. I want my kid to get a fair shake and be treated the same as everyone else. Please don't allow unkind behaviors, bullying, or cliques within the group. Squash those behaviors as soon as you notice something. If I find out that you contribute to those behaviors or encourage such cruelty, my inner "mama bear" will come out. Every child has something to contribute and it is your responsibility to ensure that no one's value is wasted. If my child requires more work, then I expect you to step up. If anyone else's child needs you, I expect you to step up. Rise to the challenge and be awesome. That's what you signed up for.
Lastly, I love my kid so much. It's not like a passive, calm, quiet kind of love. No. It's a raging, fierce, climb a mountain, tear through a brick wall kind of love. Until you have a child of your own, you cannot fully comprehend just how much I love my child. Therefore, if my child wakes in the middle of the night and needs a hug and reassurance after a bad dream, I expect you to be there. When she gets a little homesick and misses us, do not just brush it off and tell her to buck up. Put your arm around her and remind her of all the fun she is going to have.
Likewise, if my son is cranky from staying up too late, make him go to sleep or take a nap. When he refuses to brush his teeth or take a shower, remind him that cavities hurt and no one wants to smell his nasty B.O. You've got this amazing opportunity to impact my kid in a super huge way and my child just might teach you something, too. Savor this time in your life and remember that the work you are doing is so important. Fall in love with my kid and the rest of them too. I guarantee that if you could see them through our mom and dad eyes, you'd realize how incredibly awesome they ALL are. So try! See the best in them and give them someone amazing to look up to. They won't quickly forget someone who was fun, kind, and encouraging. They might even grow up with a desire to be like you one day. What better compliment is there, right?
Does it matter if you are "that mom" or "that dad?" Nope! Don't be afraid to ask questions and get to know the person that is going to be supervising your child for the next several days. Let them know where you stand about things and help them to know what works for your son or daughter. We've put together a list of seven questions that you can ask your child's counselor to help break the ice and ease your mind. Summer camp provides one of the most valuable opportunities to gain life experience and we don't want your kiddo to miss it.