The day I thought would never come is finally here: the end of summer camp. For parents, that might mean the initiation of the stressful period between summer camp ending and school starting. For kids, it’s the day they have to say goodbye to water slides, bouncy houses, and friends. For me, it’s better than the last day of school of my worst school year.
Since I love kids and have such wonderful nieces and nephews – and a beautiful godchild, of course – I thought that I would be a perfect fit for working with three-to-five-year-olds. They wouldn’t have the sass and attitude my high school students can have, and they didn’t require lesson plans or grades. Eight weeks of playing with adorable little ones? Count me in!
… and then Day 1 came and those kids ate me alive. From the traumatic first field trip to the last day of swimming, I struggled not to lose my mind or pull out my hair. I tried to keep a positive attitude, though, and as I reflect on the summer, I am here to share the best part: Working summer camp taught me everything I needed to know about kids. Here are just a few of the highlights:
- My children will wear velcro shoes until they graduate from high school or turn 18, whichever comes last.
- My children will never have a pizza Lunchable in their packet, or anything else that they need assistance opening. Wondering why? Put yourself in a room of twenty kids who need you to open the sauce packets, and then watch those kids work their magic making their own pizzas. By magic, I mean destruction, and by pizzas, I mean piles of sauce and cheese directly planted on a dirty picnic table.
- Toddlers ask an average of 437 questions a day. Multiple that by twenty kids, and that’s 8,740 questions in one day. Also, there’s a strange summer camp phenomenon that causes the children who ask the most questions to be the very last ones to be picked up. Be prepared.
- Never underestimate the power of crayons. In small numbers, they can entertain kids for hours. Multiplied into a class set and given to a small group of kids, and they will have you tripping on broken crayons for the rest of the summer.
- Make sure to ask parents how they define “potty-trained” before agreeing to watch their child. Here are a few variations of the definition:
- Potty-trained: Your child knows when to go to the restroom, can go alone, is able to adjust clothing as needed without tears, and can properly clean themselves.
- “Potty” trained – Your child knows what it means to go to the bathroom and are trained to tell you when they have pooped in their Minnie Mouse panties after sitting down and smearing around the feces a little.
- Potty “trained” – Your child is trained to go into the bathroom when he/she needs to use the restroom, but he/she may or may not be able to properly undress and could potentially have a fear of flushing toilets that causes them to spiral into uncontrollable fits of anxiety.
- No one likes wet clothes, but I’d rather wear wet clothes for the rest of my life than be required to help ten squirmy toddlers change out of swimsuits.
- Elementary teachers do not have it easy. When I was in college, I always made fun of elementary education majors, because all I ever saw them do was make bulletin boards and cut out letters. Little did I know they would spend the rest of their lives tying shoes, giving hugs, getting sneezed on, wiping up bodily fluids, answering 8,740 questions at once, dealing with the parents of “perfect” children, trying to explain what “ignore” means to a four-year-old, opening sauce packets from pizza Lunchables and then cleaning up said sauce from the table, floor, and small children.
- Parenting is hard.
- Thank God I teach high school!
All in all, this summer has been one full of challenges, but I’ve also learned a lot about myself: that living alone can make me selfish, that I don’t have as much patience as I thought I did, and that it truly does take a village to raise a child. I’m thankful to have had work, and I’m even more thankful that I came home every day to my beautiful house. I’m also thankful for this: August 6 begins my tenth year of teaching high school, and I will be dancing and singing as I walk into a classroom full of teenagers who can tie their own shoes and open their own lunches!