You'll be pleased to know that the children came home from sleepaway camp last week having had the best. Time. EVER.
Seriously. Syd is my child who can make the retelling of an event take longer than the event itself, and one hour into her summer camp monologue (I think we'd reached the morning of the second full day by then), I realized that this camp experience was way beyond what I'd imagined it ever would be, way beyond anything that I ever did at summer camp (of course, I didn't go to a sleepaway camp until I was in high school and could get scholarships and pay for it myself), and although I get why they do not permit children to phone home from camp, if the kids had just been able to phone me once and express to me even a small portion of the unadulterated fun that they were having, I would not have fretted over them for a moment.
Subtext: I fretted over them the ENTIRE time.
The theme of the children's session was Goonies. Other sessions to choose from during that week included a Harry Potter theme, a luau one, a horseback riding one that spent part of that week at a dude ranch in a different state, a sailing regatta (they'll be important later), and the younger children, who were just experiencing all the traditional camp activities. My two were in that session last year.
Goonies, however, was a pirate theme, and so I think the catalog talked about treasure chests, and a shipwreck breakfast, pirate games, etc. Super fun.
And the children would have had a fine time simply with all that, of course. On the first day, they did get eye patches. They did play plenty of pirate games. They did cook out, and they ate "walking tacos" (small bags of tortilla chips filled with taco stuff, eaten with one's hands...shudder) and "doughboys" (biscuit dough filled with chocolate chips and bananas and marshmallows, rolled in cinnamon sugar, cooked only until doughy, eaten with one's hands... shudder).
You don't go to this camp for a heightened nutritional experience, I should interject here, although you are permitted to provide food for your own camper. On the way to camp, I, with resignation, simply instructed the children, "Just eat something fresh at every meal. A fruit or a vegetable. Something. Please, Children." The mess hall's salad bar is its saving grace, because otherwise their meals are the kind of lowest common denominator kid food that will keep even the pickiest camper from fainting on the trail. Anyway, my one complaint is duly noted.
So, yes, my kids would have been happy with pirate games and tent sleeping (Syd reports that there were many spiders in their tent, and she, Willow, and Maggie, their third bunk mate who is also, apparently, the coolest, funniest, must fun kid in the world, AND who has TWO fish who you can SEE THEIR INSIDES through their skin, named them all, and they all lived in peace and harmony together, just as Girl Scouts and spiders should do), but on the second night, after it was dark and the children had gotten ready for bed, they were then instructed to get their eye patches and water bottles and flashlights, and they all sneaked across camp to vandalize the camp director's cabin.
They all "streamered" (I was given no good description of said streamers, although I asked the kids and was assured that they were not made of toilet paper) the camp director's cabin and her go-cart, but then apparently a light came on in the cabin mid-streamering, and the camp director came running out, started yelling, the children all ran, and the camp director chased them across camp in her go-cart, streamers streaming behind her.
The children encountered the Midnight Mania campers on a night hike and ran by them, screaming (Will claims that the Midnight Mania campers were all shouting at them, "What's going on?" and that Will stopped long enough to shrug nonchalantly and say to them, "Oh, nothing," before continuing to run and scream), then they had the brilliant idea to all hide in the woods until the camp director had passed. They took off their eye patches, stuffed them into their pockets, and pretended that they, too, were on a night hike until they got back to their tents.
The next morning, however, over breakfast, the camp director informed the entire camp of the crime that had been committed, and produced evidence that had been left at the scene of the crime. One child's water bottle. A counselor's activity schedule. And...
An eye patch.
The children all tried to insist that they'd been framed by the Sailing Regatta, the session of older girls with whom they were sharing their campsite, but alas, the truth was out, and as punishment the children all had to do the chicken dance in front of the entire camp.
You'd think these pirates would have learned their lesson from this, but again, after a full day of swimming at the lake (the kids passed their Turtle test and received Salamander wristbands, but decided not to try out for Dragonfly after witnessing one girl try out, fail, and then cry. Permission to swim in the very deep water without a life jacket is not worth such pain, they decided), playing on the DIY Slip n' Slide (it was made from a series of tarps laid out on a hill, and was operated using ample dish soap and one counselor wielding a water hose. The children mostly wanted to tell me about the one kid who managed to scratch herself from ankle to knee on one of the metal grommets at the edge of the tarp and required THREE BAND-AIDS to cover the scratch), and eating snow cones (all the snow cone flavor combinations had complicated Girl Scout names, all of which the kids had memorized and insisted on reciting to me every time their story came to snow cones, which happened a lot), it came up during an evening discussion that not all of the children had seen Goonies, the movie that was technically this session's namesake.
This must be remedied, they decided.
How, you may ask?
Oh, by kidnapping another group's counselor and holding her for ransom.
Syd assures me that this counselor, Lizard, wasn't "actually" tied to the chair, but she was--I think? This story is extremely unclear to me, even after multiple tellings--perhaps taken by boat to the boathouse, and then carried on a chair, and at one point she definitely fell off the chair and onto a counselor's foot, and then definitely held for ransom until a delegate was sent to pay her ransom by means of a Goonies DVD, which the children all watched that evening.
On the final full day of camp, after making popsicle stick treasure chests and being taken sailing by the Sailing Regatta (who were apparently excellent sports about being loudly scapegoated by the Goonies for everything that went wrong in camp, from paper towels left on the bathroom floor to the streamering of the camp director's cabin), the children, from what I can gather, spent the entire afternoon in the sole occupation of pranking all the other campers in the entire camp. They hiked around the entire camp, sent scouts to reconnoiter each campsite, organized themselves into patrols, and strategized a different methodology for getting their streamers onto every single campsite. Hogwarts was easy, apparently, because they were off in the crafts cabin when the Goonies came by and streamered every single one of their tents. The Art Colony, however, was having down time, and so, with devious cleverness, the children sent a few of their number to "wander" over. I probably don't have to tell you that there is nothing that a camp counselor has a better eye for than campers wandering unsupervised, so this strategy worked perfectly. Within a minute, both of Art Colony's counselors, and half of its campers, were with the children, trying to get their convoluted story of a nature hike straight, leaving the other children free to streamer Art Colony's bathroom.
Honestly, while the kids were telling me this story, I kept saying, "Seriously? You seriously did this? Your counselors encouraged you to do this?" The kids kept replying, "Oh, yeah! Puddin' and Sketch and Star helped us!"
Nevertheless, aren't you pretty sure that ten minutes after all the campers left on Friday, Puddin' and Star and Sketch may have found themselves in the camp director's office, having a reaalllly long conversation about pirates and streamers and the concept known as "Getting out of Hand?"
I kept wanting to make sure that none of the other campers had had their fun spoiled by my kids vandalizing their campsites, so I kept asking, "Were the other kids okay with this?" and my kids kept saying, "Oh, everyone said it was so funny!", but then Will said, "Except for Hillcrest. The Hillcresters swore at me."
I said, "Hillcrest?!? The kids in HILLCREST swore at you?!? The kids in Hillcrest are seven and eight years old!" They're so little that they get to stay in a bunkhouse instead of tents, and they have flushing toilets, and showers that they don't have to hike to.
Will said, "Oh, yeah. They SWORE at me."
"Well, what did they say?"
Will just shook her head. "I am NOT going to tell you." And she has stuck to that. Mind you, I swear in front of my kids sometimes. They know some swears, although they haven't used them, themselves, since they were toddlers. And still, knowing that, some seven- and eight-year-olds swore swears to my child SO swearful that she will not repeat them for my delicate Momma ears.
Instead of swearing back at them--good girl!--Will says that she told them all about pit toilets and showers that you have to hike to and spiders that get names because they sleep with you in your tent.
In other words, don't swear like you're a pirate, because you don't know the first thing about tough.
Friends, I was so worried about this camp. I kept my game face on to the kids, of course, but in my heart, I was so worried for them. I was worried that Will wouldn't make any friends. I was worried that Syd wouldn't participate. I was worried that they'd stick together and ignore the other kids. I was worried that they'd feel socially uncomfortable and therefore act out. I was worried that Syd's stomach would hurt. I dropped Syd off with her two fused baby teeth ready to fall out at any second (and they did, during the first activity, while Syd was tie-dying her T-shirt), and I was worried that the other kids would tease her because they looked strange. I was worried that Will would only want to read, and be sullen because she barely had any time to. I was worried that if the kids had a problem, they'd feel too shy to go to their counselors.
None of my worries happened. Not a single one. The kids idolized their counselors, and felt completely comfortable with them. They made friends with all the other campers (Hillcresters aside... ahem). They tried new things. They had adventures. They utilized the salad bar, and consumed their weight in snow cone syrup. They shot arrows and sailed on sailboats. There was an actual plank off the dock at the lake, and they got to walk the plank when they did good deeds (because pirates). They had so much fun that I can hardly believe it.
And they came home to me just barely sunburnt, not too covered in chigger bites, their pockets full of rocks, and they slept for probably fourteen hours that night.
And yes, they're already talking about next year. Although I have a sneaking suspicion that pirates will NOT be one of the themes that's offered again...