My First Week As A Summer Camp Counselor

The title itself should explain the basic concept of this blog post, but if I need to elaborate, I suppose I can do that.

On Monday, I began work at Camp Laughing Turtle, here in good ol’ Vermont. We’re in the first lap of summer, and all the kids are getting done with elementary and middle school finally, so they need somewhere to go–whether their parents dislike them or have jobs, I’m not really sure. I landed a job at the camp as a Junior Counselor, which means I’m not eighteen yet so I have to be “Junior” everything. I love that I’m making money, though, so that’s great.

Without a doubt, the most eventful element of this job, thus far, has been meeting all these kids. The camp had a small percentage of its total applicants this first week, since a few schools had to go over their time because of all the snow days from March. I’m not joking, but God I wish I was. So, we had a relatively tiny group to work with most of this week, and I gravitated to the youngest of them, the five and six year-olds. They’re a great bunch, for the most part. I love kids this age because they have such wild, bright, exciting personalities, but they’re rarely intent on pushing your buttons and pissing everyone off. They really just want to have a good time and learn and experience as much as they can. Of course there are always the troublemakers, but it’s nothing compared to the older kids–but more on that later.

The thing about five and six year-olds is that they are the most honest age-group. They will tell you exactly how they feel, exactly what they think, and everything in between. There’s no sugar coating or insecurity, just pure bona fide genuine humanity. The only real barrier is the language barrier, but they usually can overcome it with some help.

And boy, do they have personalities. One boy is the brightest, happiest kid you’ve ever met. He’s helpful, kind, and considerate, and really quite intelligent. But something weird happens sometimes: often, when he doesn’t like the answer to a question, or when he doesn’t really get what he wants, he sort of just loses all the happiness in his face. Actually, he loses all emotion. His face becomes stone and his eyes just fix on whatever denied him his pleasures, and if you’re the subject of that stare, you actually wonder if you should watch your own back. Seriously, it’s frightening. He doesn’t cry or scream or even say anything, he just stands there and stares. It’s a pure “Bitch, I will fuck your existence” expression.

Another girl is similar in this way, but it’s sort of creepy because you don’t understand why. There’s never rhyme or reason. She’s often very happy and sociable, but sometimes she just closes up and doesn’t seem to hear you. I’ve found her playing with sunscreen way too often, and she drained an entire bottle in under two days, applying it during meals and rubbing it all over herself in quite an excessive amount. But that isn’t the worst of it: I really think she’s possessed sometimes. Like, by a demon. Or the spirit of a mildly-annoyed teenager. I dunno. I’ve caught her just staring at me and at other people with this blank look, as if she’s totally figuring out your entire being without any issues. She’s like Robert California from The Office, but cuter and without the raspy voice or mild depression.

There are so many other kids that I can’t sum up in a few paragraphs. A beautifully happy little boy with way too much ambition, a little girl who probably has narcolepsy and likes to hit people when they don’t stop talking, a boy who went and hid under a bush and went unfound for fifteen minutes–and so on. In just a week, I’ve already learned a lot about myself alone. I sound like a broken record, telling kids to slow down and not hurt themselves, to stay with the group, to take one more bite of their snack, to quiet down because it’s fucking quiet time, for Christ’s sake–but it all feels worth it, somehow. Of course, a week has felt like a month, but I think I’ll adjust with time.

There are still so many frustrations for me, being a seventeen year-old in his second real job. I struggle to remain patient and level-headed, and I have to remind myself that the kids who cause problems and push buttons may have it the hardest when they go home. There’s an extremely important element of compassion, sympathy, and understanding when working with all of these kids, and for an anti-social, individualistic teenager like myself, these can be difficult things to understand. But I think it’ll all pay off, one way or another. Yes, I’ll get money, but there’s something else here, some sort of spiritual or emotional healing involved.

Maybe it helps that so many of these kids remind me of myself, at that age.

And maybe it helps that so many of these kids remind me of my brother, wherever he is now.

 

-J

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