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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
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« Here are words I wrote elsewhere | Main | Charlie and Me »
Tuesday
Aug102010

In which I complain about summer camp

Before I even start: I know there are some of you who don’t cotton to the notion of “camp.” I’m sure that in your day, summer was spent ambling about the countryside, swimming down by the ol’ swimming hole, catching frogs, singing songs by the fire, putting frogs in Ma’s bathwater, making mud pies, poking at frogs with sticks, daydreaming, picking wild raspberries in Old Man Dobson’s raspberry bushes, throwing frogs at Old Man Dobson, and other such relaxed, nonscheduled, frog-related activities.

I’m sure those are lovely memories, but around these parts, Henry goes to camp. This happens for several reasons. First of all, his friends who remain in the city also attend camp, so if he didn’t go to camp, he wouldn’t get to hang out with them. But the most important reason is so I can work. I work so that 1) we get money for goods and services and 2) I do not go insane. But not to worry, camp-haters—camp ends this week, and there will be plenty of time for moseying and vacation-type wholesomeness. School doesn’t begin until mid-September. We will enjoy an extended unscheduled period that may or may not end in a significant loss of sanity. Are you happy now?

As I was saying before I felt the need to defend myself against imaginary frog-obsessed readers: camp. Henry went to a general, crafts-and-sports camp last summer, and it seemed to go well, until at the end of the summer he confided that, in fact, he hated it. Hated it! He explained that he had kept quiet because he didn’t want to make a fuss. I found this remarkable, as fuss-making is among Henry’s favorite activities.

At any rate, we chose a couple of different camps this year. This way, if he didn’t like one, he wouldn’t have to stay there for long, and if he loved it, he’d be really sad to leave and not want to go to the next one when his time there was up. Wait.

A couple of the artier camps Henry has attended feature an end-of-the-week performance. Note that I did not say end of the summer. Or even end of the month. At the end of each week, we are expected to arrive early at camp, so we can witness a performance that the children have been working their little hearts out on for four days. Of course not four straight days, as they also need to have time to eat, sing songs, draw, swim, run about, and plot our deaths. So let’s say they’ve focused on the performance aspect of the camp for about fifteen minutes in any given day. Who doesn’t want to see a show where the actors have rehearsed for a full hour? That’s magic!

I realize one does not necessarily attend a children’s performance expecting quality theatre. No, you go to see the product of your kids’ efforts, and you go because they’re excited and proud and it’s adorable. But even the kids aren’t especially psyched to perform something they barely know because it’s only been four days. Henry usually isn't clear about what his role in the play even is, and he spends his time on stage performing his own quirky dance routine instead of following any of the counselors’ frantically whispered directions.

Actually, his dance is pretty great, and worth the trouble of attending.

So why do these camps do it? Is it to prove to us that our children are getting something out of camp? Can they possibly understand how little I care? Something these undoubtedly well-meaning and gung-ho camp organizers do not seem to grok is that I (and, I assume, most other parents) put my child in camp so I did not have to be with him during those hours. Of course there are other reasons. Like his having fun and making friends and bloo de bloo. But’s not like camp runs into bedtime. We have most of an afternoon to gaze into each other’s eyes. All I ask for is a few hours to myself, so I can write (in my blog, for instance—hello!), go to the gym, catch frogs, and otherwise enjoy my precious non-parenting time.

With these weekly shows, camp is taking away my precious. Leave me my precious, camp.

(The camp performances this year, at least, are nothing compared to the camp Henry went to in New Jersey, where they put on a weekly “talent show” in the middle of the day, and the parents were all expected to file in to watch their children half-heartedly lip-synch to Hannah Montana songs. Those talent shows made me want to punch everything. Punching everything is frowned upon in New Jersey, though, despite what you may hear.)

 

Adding insult to injury, the other parents don’t seem especially fazed by these performances. In fact they seem to enjoy them. They don’t complain at all. They arrive at camp with smiles on their faces, and they take pictures and coo while their children shuffle about the stage. I can’t figure it out. Is it because it’s only an hour (but sometimes more!) out of their lives? And the kids are pretty adorable, even if they don’t have any lines and the counselors who are clearly all frustrated actors are doing most of the acting? Or maybe, as my husband and friends have suggested, other adults are simply better able to control their facial muscles than I am, and can smile when they feel like scowling and/or pouting? It’s all very curious.

At any rate, this week is the last camp-play I’ll be attending. For this summer, at least. I’ll try to act like I’m sad this is the last one, but I’m not promising anything.

Reader Comments (62)

bloo de bloo killed me (and I had to say it out loud), and I'm almost glad that I can't fall asleep because it gave me precious time to catch up on your blog and repeatedly say bloo de bloo. Thanks!
August 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEileen
"I (and, I assume, most other parents) put my child in camp so I did not have to be with him during those hours."



Thank you for saying this. Not wanting to be with my children every hour out of the day during the summer does NOT make me a bad mother. It makes me a SANE mother.
August 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAbraCat
sometimes I think you get into my brain, put my thoughts into words, and put them on your blog! thank you! i am honored. And so grateful that someone else finds these shows as much of a drag as I do. Must run, or I will miss the end of the week presentation at Raptor Camp (one of my sons plans to become a falconer. Don't let Henry read My Side of the Mountain, whatever you do.)
August 13, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkate
Alice - I am with you on this one!!! I work from home part-time.....I cherish each and every moment my 3 girls are in camp. Never mind the small fortune I spend to send them to camp - I WANT MY MONEY'S WORTH!!!Last week was soccer camp - we hosted 2 british coaches for the week. Camp ran from 9am-12pm and on Friday, they asked parents to come at 10:45am to play games!! The games are the most humiliating songs & dances with a soccer ball!! I've done this the past 2 years so as not to disappoint the children. This year I just refused to go!! I paid a small fortune - entertain my kids & teach them soccer skills until I pick them up at noon!!!

I have been ranting to friends about the whole Friday performance thing all summer. I too will boycott - but need you all to follow my lead :)

August 16, 2010 | Unregistered Commenter3Angels&Me
Yeah I had to chime in on this one too (Hi Alice, long time, first time, yadda). I sent my 7 yr old to camps all summer so I wouldn't go all medieval on the kids (I also have a 3 yr old and a nearly 2 yr old... getting a break from even 1 of them is a Godsend). There's not enough Zoloft in the world to enable me to stay home w/ all three of them, together, all summer long, and not go over the edge.

Anyway, this latest camp, called *cough* Future Maestros, featured a 20 minute "performance" at the end, for which I had to wrangle my 2 younger ones, and pretend to be interested, and ignore the scowls of the other parents who were trying to VIDEO their kids, but couldn't hear because my smaller 2 were screeching out of sheer boredom.

OMG that was fun. And we have to do it again this Friday for the end of the 2nd week. Thank God school goes back Sept 1!!



August 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMorahLaura
Yeah, I don't get the performances either. Especially, when you have to pick the kids up early afterwards. I think I should get some money back for the hour lost.
August 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterErika
I HATE YOUR CAMP. Because I am all awash in froggy green envy. Camp is not in the budget for us this year. And the insanity has been present to a shocking degree. Some day I will be a camp haver and a camp lover. Enjoy your camp. And pay no mind to us haters. ;)
August 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGreta Koenigin
Oh my goodness, living right outside NYC and having kids that go to camp....this post was amaingly funny and spot on in every aspect.

Sadie at heyMamas
August 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSadie at heyMamas
Hah! A few years ago my kids attended a two-week theater camp. Like Henry's camp, the actual theater part was mostly squeezed in between swimming, snacks, running around on the playground, and from what I could tell, frequent meltdowns from the high-strung instructor who obviously fancied herself an actor/director, notsomuch a child-wrangler. This woman made the biggest deal about having all the parents show up at the end of the session to watch the kids perform *an entire musical*. Now, having been in many community theater productions, I know it takes more than a total of maybe 12 hours to put up a full-scale production, but I went with high hopes.

We were all there...from those of us in shorts and tanks to the moms and dads in business suits smiling expectantly at the stage (expectantly, I'm guessing, because it was 3 in the afternoon and they were probably missing an important meeting at work for this). Finally the kids ambled out on the stage and...well. I'm not sure I'd use the word "performed". It was more like they got up and freestyle danced while lip-synching to a musical soundtrack in some "period" odds and ends they found in Mom's closet that morning. It was PAINFUL. And I've sat through (and even performed in) some painful stuff before, so I'd know.

Don't get me wrong, I have no problem watching kids be kids and I don't expect polish or perfection, but I hated that all the parents were pressured into attending-and the kids pressured into giving--this "performance" which turned out to be really just a halfhearted rehearsal. The kids probably would rather have used their final two hours of camp swimming. Does everything have to have an end "product"? It's camp people! Let's just let the kids--and the moms--have some fun!



August 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMeagan Francis

well done

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