These were the words that came from my 14 year old daughter’s mouth as she walked in the house after her first day on the job as a counsellor at a day camp.
She is now a “working stiff”; making some of her own scratch (albeit very little of it), so she can go out and buy some of the unnecessary stuff any 14 year old girl would want to get…whatever that might be.
Her job started on a national holiday, Canada Day. So while my wife and I were relaxing and sipping “beverages”, she was surrounded by a bunch of little 3-4 year old boys and girls who were ranting and raving all day long.
“I have to go to the bathroom”, “cut up my hot dog”, “help me with my sunscreen”, “I don’t wanna go in the swimming pool”.
As were sipping our cocktails at happy hour on our front porch waiting for our hard working daughter to come home from work, we were trying to guess what our daughter would say the moment the camp bus dropped her off in front of our house. Was it going to be positive and filled with excitement about how wonderful her first day on the job was? Or, would it be a “bitch-fest”.
The bus pulled up, the doors opened and off she got…looking disheveled; her hair all frizzy, her face flush from the heat of the day and the even greater heat of the school bus. She dragged her sorry-looking butt up the stairs and launched into her diatribe about how horrible her first day was. The bus driver was a doofus, the kids were loud and “obnoxious” (hard to imagine a 3 year old being obnoxious), she didn’t have anytime for herself…having to take her kids to the bathroom was not fun, seeing a little 3 year old boy’s “weenies” was less than delightful.
She went on for about 15 minutes.
We came inside, I got her a glass of cold water (although I really think she needed a beer) and we proceeded to further debrief. We learned about her co-counsellors, more detail about the kids she is responsible for and how she generally felt about things.
My wife and I, now on our second cocktail, calmed her down. We told her that things are always crazy on the first day of camp. Everything always seems to work on the page, but implementing it sometimes doesn’t always go the same way.
We reassured her that things would get better and that at least she wasn’t a counsellor to these kids at a sleep-over camp. At the end of the day, she got to come home, shower, re-charge her batteries and attack the next day with renewed enthusiasm.
I had a big smile on my face the entire time for a number of reasons.
Firstly, this was her first “job”. Someone has employed her for the summer and is prepared to pay her money. But along with the money comes responsibility. She is responsible for the lives of 13 three and four year olds. Their safety and happiness are her main concern. If they are not happy and safe then she has failed at her job and won’t be invited back to work again next summer. Her impact on these children is huge as for many, it is their first camping experience. Those of us who were fortunate to attend summer camp know how important the interaction their counsellor can be. They can truly make or break a summer for a kid.
I loved the fact that she got a small dose of what its like to be a parent. To have to be responsible for someone, to make sure they go to the bathroom, eat, have sunscreen on, wash their hands, remind them to wear their hats in the sun and to make them feel ok if they fall and skin their knee. She has never had to do this.
I thought entering high school would be a game-changer for our daughter. To a certain extent it has and did. But working at a camp and being responsible, not only to the children but also to her employer, is an even bigger game changer.
I am not encouraging her to grow up too quickly. This will happen on its own within the blink of an eye. Of course we want her to enjoy her youth…to enjoy the relative freedom of being a kid (teenager). But, we are also thrilled to give her exposure to the world of responsibility and obligation. This will give her a taste of what us grown ups are all about and a little bit of exposure to what’s coming down the road for her as she matures. She might even appreciate what we do for her a little more.
She might not love the work. She might bitch about it. This is fine. I know what she is capable of and I know that she will rise to the occasion and will do this counsellor-gig with enthusiasm and dedication. That is the kind of kid I know she is.
She is going to have a blast. In fact, I bet she will have more fun as a counsellor than a camper.
I know I did.