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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Camp Lesson 2: Sometimes All You Can Do Is Laugh!

Laughing is not out of the ordinary for me. I laugh all the time. Actually I probably laugh too much. Like I laugh when I should be serious (like when I'm getting reprimanded or someone says something completely inappropriate). But typically the laughing stops when I get frustrated or aggravated or impatient about something. So the fact that I laughed my way through all the events I'm about to share with you, is a miracle.

August Camp last year (last camp session of the summer) was the craziest two weeks of my life.  I had a cabin of ten 8-9 year olds from all around the world. Ok most of them were from the states but one girl was from South America (pretty cool right). I love this age group. Their biggest issues tend to be either bullying or bed wetting. Both of which I feel perfectly capable of handling. So it was not their age or bladder size that made this session crazy.  No, it had more to do with behaviors I didn't <insert never> expected.

Like I never expected one of my campers to pee in a cup. Yes, you read that right, she peed in a cup. And no we were not drug testing. I take partial responsibility for this one. Obviously I wasn't paying enough attention to this camper, otherwise she wouldn't have done it (or I at least hope not). You see about the second day of August Camp, I fell in the dinning hall. Slipped on a puddle of water. To give you a visual I looked like I was sliding into home. Oh did I also mention I was holding a tray of food. So instead of catching myself, I fell directly on my hip and elbow, but the food was okay (It's all about the children right). Anyways I was in bad shape, I ended up spending the rest of lunch in the health hut (and the rest of the camp session limping). But being a cabin counselor I had to go back for rest hour <insert the hour after lunch that I normally spent trying to keep my campers quiet>. So I popped a couple of Tylenol and went back. It was during rest hour, while I was trying to rest <insert pouting with my eyes closed wishing I was at home with my mommy> that this incident happened. Something in me told me to open my eyes, when I did I found my camper coming out of the bath room with a cup filled with yellow liquid. I immediately asked her what she had, she proceeded to tell me about how she was making good smells on her bed <insert rubbing deodorant, shampoo, and toothpaste on paper towels...all mine I might add> and decided that it might be fun to make a bad smell. Hence the pee. I told her that this was wrong and to never do it again but not before I exploded into laughter. I don't know if I was delirious from pain or what but I lost it. I don't think I've ever laughed so hard. Now that was not the end of my campers interesting behavior.

Let me say that there is nothing medically or mentally wrong (at least not to my knowledge) with the camper I'm about to describe (so laughing about her behavior is okay...or so I think it is). I knew that this camper was going to be interesting when her mother pulled me aside and informed me that she was "quirky". Being described as quirky as an adult is a good thing (most of the time). It means you're a little odd, you walk to the beat of your own drum, but your peculiar behavior is all around entertaining and fun. When a parent describes their child as quirky it means my child has uncontrollable behavioral issues and an odd tendency to make animal noises at inappropriate times, and we have no way of dealing with these issues, so be warned. Or at least that's been my experience. You see this camper took quirky to a whole new level. This camper would be talking to you and randomly start laughing. And not like giggling but like hysterically laughing. It was very off putting. But I guess that was better than her just staring at you...which she also did a lot.

The campers have pen pals that they write to before camp. So on the first day this camper was obsessed with meeting hers. So I went with her to meet her pen pal. But instead of speaking to her, my camper just stared. Most awkward conversation of my life. But I understood that not all my campers social skills were formed yet. What I didn't understand was when my camper, after leaving immediately started talking about how her pen pal was her new best friend. And how they were going to sit together at dinner, and have all the same classes and how much she loved her. Now I'm not calling my camper crazy but that was pretty crazy behavior...even for an 8 year old.

 She also had a tendency to lose things. By the 5th day of camp she had lost all her shoes (and she wasn't sure how this happened...I blamed nargels). When informed by another camper that a pair of her shoes was at gymnastics (a class she took) she was completely bewildered as to how her shoes ended up there. I don't know how many times I would find my camper walking around barefoot.

This camper also had an odd obsession with dogs. She seemed to know every fact about every breed. She also was very talented in making barking noises. She would show off this skill in the middle of rest hour or when she was having a conversation or at meals (not awkward at all). Her obsession though did go sour when at dog camp (a class where girls take care of real live puppies) this camper refused to return one of the puppies and tried to run away with it. When the counselors rescued the hostage  puppy, my camper had a complete mental breakdown (full on screaming/hair pulling/shouting....did I mention this reaction was common when she didn't get her way...just another one of those quirky qualities). I heard about this when these same counselors unknowingly recounted this tale to me. When I asked if this camper happened to be name <insert my campers name> I was asked how I knew. You can imagine the looks I received when they learned that the dog camp criminal was my camper (oh what a proud camp-mom moment that was). And her "quirky" behavior didn't end there.

The very first night after everyone was in bed, I had a conversation with this camper, that went something like this: "Amanda are you there?" "Yes I'm here." "But I can't see you!" "But you can hear me..." "But I can't see you!!!" I then proceeded to get out of bed to reassure her that the voice answering her wasn't a recording...I mean because that totally could have been the case.  Oh and did I mention that this happened every night...multiple times a night (eventually she stopped needing me to get out of bed but she continued to call out). Now the first couple of nights, we <insert counselors> are not allowed to go out but after that we have 10-12 off (there's a patrol the walks around so every body is safe). Now everything I mentioned above (except for the losing of all the shoes, though by this point we were already down a few pairs) happened in the first two days. So when that reprieve of  going out came on the third night, I had to get out. But I was  petrified that this camper would wake up, call out for me, and wake the whole tentalow row when I didn't answer her. But thankfully I serve an awesome God. I asked Him to keep this camper asleep until I came back, and in return I promise to not be a minute late. No lie, I would get back to my cabin at 11:50 and the minute my head hit the pillow, my camper would call out for me. And every time I answered yes, I said a big silent thank you to Jesus.

Now my campers most quirky quality was her inability to understand that just because someone left the room didn't mean they were gone for good. I thought babies typically developed this skill at 12-18 months, that's why my campers behavior was so unexpected. When I would go to the bathroom or out on the cabin porch, my camper would start screaming and asking where I was...I wish I was exaggerating. This happened more times than I would like to remember. And sadly this behavior only got worse the longer we were together. It was like the more she got attached to me the more she needed to see me every moment. This behavior was almost the one to break me but I realized I had two choices; I could either laugh or I chose to laugh. And yes I laughed at this behavior (which is wrong but whatever). Because in the end all I could do was make the best of it.  And things are always better when you're laughing.

 After reading this blog it may seem like pee cup girl and dog obsessed shoe losing girl were my only campers. But I did in fact have 8 other girls. And I wish I could say that I didn't write about them because they were normal and boring (which a few of them were) but some of the others were just as crazy. I had one girl who stalked me. I mean followed me every where. When ever I turned around there she was. I had another camper who watched me while I slept...I'm not kidding. She had the upper bunk right near my bed and would spend the night peaking over the edge at me. I spent the entire session sleeping with my face towards the wall. And on the last day of camp, when I was cleaning my cabin, I found that another camper had collected sand and saved it in her bunk (I didn't notice because she had an upper bunk...and I may have had my hands full with other things). The crazy thing is I can't for the life of me figure out where she got this sand from. Camp doesn't have a beach or a sand box, so I'm out of ideas.

So needless to say August camp last year was one of the craziest times in my life. But honestly I don't know if I've ever laughed more than I did in those two weeks. Sure there were plenty of moments where I could have lost it (and there were a few that I almost did) but seriously the ability to laugh saved me. Also it helped to have an amazing group leader, nights off so I could call my mom, and you know maybe Jesus had a hand in helping me keep it all together too. Actually when I look back at all the time I've spent at camp, this was by far my favorite session! Well I hope you enjoyed these stories as much as I do! XXOO

1 comment:

  1. I love that I was there for all of that! xx