I've noticed that people usually assume that I'm some weird hybrid between a cheerleader and a Girl Scout when I tell them I used to be a camp counselor. And now that I think about it, that's probably not too far off. After all, I've spent countless hours shouting my enthusiasm for random things while surrounded by trees, so it's a fair assessment. Though, now that I'm an adult with a kid of my own, it's apparent that much of what you learn from camp counseling prepares you for parenthood in a major way. And I'm even talking beyond the obvious reason of, you know, having practice caring for kids.
Admittedly, I tend to be overly nostalgic (what's more fun than rehashing our '80s-'90s girl past?), but I'm especially attached to my summer camp days. Some of my best friends to this day are from camp, some of my favorite teenage memories are from camp, and I still find myself relying on some of skills that came from camp. I mean, you might not think that identifying edible and non-edible berries is really all that useful when you live in a city, but it's nice knowing I'm set if I'm ever lost out in the woods on a random Saturday. And, there's plenty more to it than just plant labels and getting kids to quickly and efficiently learn the words to a cabin cheer. Allow me to share:
You Know All The Kid-Friendly Songs
Do you need an upbeat song about a little green frog? Look no further. How about a mid-tempo ditty about what it'd be like if raindrops were actually gumdrops? Don't worry, you're covered. A slow, sleepy jam about how this land is your land and my land? I got you.
Tears Don't Faze You As Much
Ah, homesickness, that elusive beast that strikes at the most inopportune times. It's never fun to see a young person struggling with their feels, but it does bring experience with helping them through it, which I'm now able to rely on as a parent.
You're Not Afraid Of Dirt (Or Mud Or Rain Or Wind...)
I'm from the Pacific Northwest, and here, a number of schools participate in Outdoor Education, aka, CAMP DURING THE SCHOOL YEAR. I know, how genius is that? In addition to giving everyone, including campers, counselors and teachers, the chance to skip the classroom for a week, it also means that we are doing the camp thing year-round, in all conditions. It's also where I first learned about calling rain, "liquid sunshine."
You're Down To Hang Out On The Floor
OK, I can admit it: Sometimes I actually prefer it.
You've Seen How Bringing Excitement To Mundane Tasks Really Does Help
You guys, believe it or not, I've seen tween girls argue over who got to clean the toilet. I'm not saying this is an everyday occurrence, but, like occasionally finding wisdom in Kanye's Twitter stream, it's technically possible.
You Are Well-Aware That Kids Don't Always Do What You Want Them To
Especially when it's parent night and like 300 people are expecting to see all of you perform a skit. No big deal.
You Know How To Stay Calm When You're Feeling Stressed
Because if you scream at the giant, hand-sized spider in your cabin, your campers are going to lose their minds and you cannot have that so close to bedtime. But if you casually flick it outside with your songbook, everyone can keep their cool. (And then you can duck around the corner and shudder silently for 10 minutes straight.)
You're Used To Answering Rando Questions On The Fly
And you might even have a set few phrases that you can pull out of your pocket to stall and give yourself a few minutes to think, like, "Well, here at camp, we do it that way becaaaaauuuuse..." When spoken slowly enough, this one can be dragged out quite effectively.
Crafts And Games Are Your Jam
Confession: My son is a bit young for most of the activities I remember from camp, but a girl can dream, right? I'm ready for the first time he has six to eight friends over, and they're down to sit in a circle and clap at each other.
You Can Function On Little To No Sleep
When else is the staff supposed to meet than when the kids are sleeping? One of the best parts about being a counselor (you know, aside from the whole being a positive role model in the life of a child) is the secret world that happens after lights out. (I'd tell you more, but then I'd have to kill you.)
You Don't Stress When You Don't Look Good
It's what's on the inside that counts, you guys. Especially after three nights of minimal sleep, only one shower, and zero make-up.
You Love Clipboards, Sharpies, And Laminating Things
Granted, as far as I can tell, none of these things are really necessary to be a good parent but they certainly don't hurt. I'm just now really prepared to volunteer in my kid's classroom in like, eight years, and is that really such a bad thing?