July 30, 2011
The camp instructors were very enthusiastic and friendly. That makes a world of difference. One teacher in particular always called Henry by name and seemed really glad to see him each day. It sounds like a simple thing but I've found with park district classes the quality of staff can vary greatly. I was pleasantly surprised this time.
In addition to teachers and an assistant, the campers were joined by a big white duck. It followed them everywhere, waddling among the children as they took hikes, pitched tents and sang songs around a campfire.
The week before camp began I was a bit anxious. I had a list of instructions and was worried about forgetting something important. (I've always been the teacher, sending home letters and supply lists. Now I'm on the receiving end.) I needed to make sure Henry had a) closed toe shoes; b) sunscreen and bug spray applied and c) a water bottle. For the first two, it was just a matter of remembering. But the water bottle? What kind? It didn't say what kind! Store-bought bottled water? A reusable BPA-free container filled with tap water? Should it have a straw? Should it be insulated? What kind would the other kids have? Would Henry be the only one without a personalized one from that fancy toy store? Should it be 12 oz or 16 oz? Sounds as if I'm indulging in hyperbole but all this really went through my mind.
I found myself at the grocery store Sunday morning looking at the kids' aluminum water containers. Most were pink or had floral designs but one looked boyish with an insect theme. Oh, no--there was a butterfly and a ladybug among the crickets, ants and flies. Would the other kids make fun of Henry for having these feminine bugs on his drinking vessel? And there was a bee. Is a bee feminine or masculine? What if a child in the camp had a bee allergy and thought Henry was taunting him with this container? At this point, even I realized I was over thinking it. BUT I'd never done this before. When I was a child every school purchase was so important. I used to look at the kids with the coolest, "just right" supplies and I just knew that their parents loved them.
After ten minutes of indecision in aisle six, I didn't buy the bug canteen.*
I bought a case of tiny bottled nursery water with those sippy, sport caps. It was on sale. I took the Elmo labels off before sending them to camp with Henry. He watches Elmo but do other four year boys? Would they make fun of him? Some nights I added the worry that I'd forget to remove the label in our haste to get to camp on time.
Henry was prepared each day: bug spray, SPF, sneakers and water. I was on time to pick him up. I kept my cell phone charged and checked it ever ten minutes. He found the restroom and washed his hands. All my worries came to naught but my relief was short-lived. On Friday we returned home to a large envelope in our mailbox: a welcoming letter from his prekindergarten teacher. And a supply list.
*On Wednesday, I noticed one of Henry's fellow campers sipping from the bug-themed canteen. Bet his mom just threw it in the shopping cart without a second thought. Must be nice.