It’s been a great summer; best in a long time. I can think of a few reasons why, but number one on the list is an unprecedented preponderance of household harmony. The home and hearth, while fully occupied, has emanated the aromatic bouquet of tranquility.
Why? Because the kids have gotten along.
Why? Because they haven’t been around each other much.
And for the last time, why? Because the older kid’s been working!
Gives me goosebumps to say it. All summer she’s been whacking the alarm clock and punching the time clock, packing a lunch and coming home spent like a two-for-one Applebee’s Groupon. To a skeptical parent, how soothing flow the foamy waters of the Protestant work ethic.
By the same token, for a college sophomore who typically brims with the boundless energy of a seven-year-old, what more serendipitous summer vocation exists than an opportunity to professionally frolic with genuine seven-year-olds? None that I can think of, so let’s see how things went.
I caught up with our YMCA-camp-counselor-in-residence, codename Zebra, last weekend during a ninety-minute car ride down to Olympia. Able to nap at a moment’s notice, I felt compelled to engage her prior to her succumbing to the taunting luxury of our ’06 Hyundai.
They call you Zebra. Why is that?
All the counselors have nicknames. It’s to keep the kids from finding us on social media. Like a little kid would actually do that.
Hey, you never know. Did you name yourself?
We all name ourselves. There’s T-Rex, Sharkzilla, Scooby, Snickerdoodle…let’s see… Razzle, Flounder, Puppy…
Sounds like a mushroom-inspired Barney episode.
Good one, Dad.
So what was it like having to wake up at 6:30?
Really hard. I haven’t gotten up that early since eighth grade. It made naps even more crucial than they were before. I still managed to get in eight hours a night.
Yeah, that’s not true. But moving along, was there anything that surprised you about this job?
It’s fairly unstructured. Each counselor gets a group of ten kids, and it’s up to us to find things for them to do. We go on field trips a few times a week, but the rest of the time is sort of our choice.
How do they behave?
Overall, they’re pretty good. The worst time is when we’re lined up for the bathroom. It takes a full 25 minutes to get everyone through, so they start messing with each other. They throw rocks and pine cones at each other. They use acorns like currency.
Sounds like a prison yard.
I still can't figure out how their faces get so dirty. Did my face get dirty?
Filthy. Just disgusting. Yes.
The other day a kid came up to me holding a little crab he found on the beach. It was still alive. He said “Zebra, can I eat this crab?” I said “Absolutely not.” He said “Well, how come Tristan gets to?” I went down to the beach and Tristan had already eaten a couple of the legs off a live crab. I said “Tristan, why are you doing that?” He said “Because people eat crabs all the time.” I said “Tristan, you have to kill the crab before you eat it.” He said “I didn’t know that, Zebra.”
What part of your job did you enjoy the most?
I always liked it when we ate our lunches. The kids were always content and liked to talk about stuff.
What kind of stuff?
This one kid, whose name is Joseph, is so cute. When he makes the “s” sound it sounds more like “sh.” The other day, he said “Zhebra, I have to tell you shomething. Well, remember when I told you one of my momsh ish dead? Well, I feel bad. That wash a lie. She’sh alive. I jusht wanted to shee what you would shay.”
They don’t care about hanging out with the opposite sex. A couple of kids even became boyfriend and girlfriend. They’re so adorable, you can tell by the looks on their faces that they really like each other. They give each other acorns.
Sounds like quite a learning experience. Do you think working with kids may be something you’d like to do for a career?
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, Dad.