I sent my young sons off to summer camp, and they returned older, and wiser.
Actually, only their vocabulary grew up. They’re still 5 and 7.
Summer time offers a unique challenge to parents. All that free time! All those adventures! For this father, who calls his man cave his office, that meant figuring out how to work a 9-to-5 schedule and keep the kids preoccupied.
Voila! Day camp.
It seemed too good to be true. The camp is a two-minute drive from our house. The price was reasonable. And a fellow parent raved how much her own daughter enjoyed it last year.
No brainer. Not so fast.
First, came packing camp lunches. Every day this Dad spends 10 minutes making sandwiches along with a mix of healthy and very unhealthy snacks. Even if I wanted to get lazy and skip the apples and bananas the counselors wouldn’t allow it.
You must have fruits as well as snack bars, we’re told. I can deal with that. I’m a good parent!
The rewards came at the end of each day. That’s when I learned the fate of my meticulously packed meals.
‘I lost it.’
‘A kid threw my lunch bag in the tree.’
‘I don’t think you packed it’ (not true).
Best of all, the leftover fruits smushed beyond recognition in their back packs. A new clean up chore.
Then came the language lessons. No, my sons aren’t suddenly speaking Spanish or French. They could, however, go toe-to-toe with shock jock Howard Stern. Evidently, mixing with older children granted them fresh new slang.
Heck, they’re going to learn those words anyway. They just got caught up to speed sooner than planned.
Let’s not forget the colorful exchanges with their fellow campers. One little girl talks like Amy Schumer’s saucy stand-up act. Another sounded like a fifth-rate Ferris Bueller clone.
Our sons go to an almost sickeningly sweet school. The boys and girls are beautifully behaved. Rough housing is kept to a minimum.
Now, my sons are dealing with light bullying on a daily basis.
My older son is just like me. Translation: He’s a wimp. So I figured he’d buckle at camp. We’d get one of those, “I hate camp” letters that every parent dreads.
Instead, he shrugs off the complications and races to play his tablet once he gets home. My youngest is a bull in any shop, China or otherwise. He’s doing just fine, too.
The boys have made new friends, learned lively adjectives and snuck in some pretty cool adventures at local attractions.
They survived. I’m exhaling. I still can’t wait for that school bell to sound again.