This past summer, I was a camp counselor at a sleep-away camp in Webster, Wisconsin. I had two sessions of campers, each of which were there for three weeks. And for those three weeks, I was the role model for for thirteen girls ages 11-13.
Being a camp counselor is the definition of a chaotic job. It involves getting up early to drag your campers to flag, which your campers never want to go to. It involves eating last so you make sure all your campers get food. It involves planning programming that all the sudden needs to be completely adjusted, whether it be due to the weather or tools that refuse to function. It involves being the one to take your campers to the infirmary when they are sick, it involves reassuring your campers when they get homesick, and it involves putting your kids to bed each night, making them feel safe and like they’ve had the best day possible.
If you’re good at your job, you become an interim parent to your campers. I of course joked about that with all my friends, and my campers. And to some extent it’s true. When two of my campers made it into the weekly comedy show, which traditionally features less than 15 campers a summer, I told them I was having a “proud mom moment” for them. They giggled, but I knew they appreciated it.
Being a camp counselor is a lot of work. It involves going out of your way to make these kids feel at home at a camp in the middle of nowhere. It involves being a good role model.
It means attending activities that I may not personally enjoy, but want to encourage my campers to participate and show respect for the program. It means sitting quietly while someone on the mic tries to silence the dining hall so messages can be relayed.
It involves encouraging your kids to do everything they can and to be the best they can. This year, my campers won the most clean cabin, and received cool shirts for it. They got a perfect score every day of camp, except for one day, and that made them very upset. But my co-staff and I encouraged them each day. I’d come back from leading my morning activity and see my campers, who had gotten back to the cabin only moments before, come up to me with excitement about getting another perfect 21. To which I would reply with a high-five and encouragement about how I knew they could do it.
My campers’ smiles brightened every day, no matter how draining or stressful the day had been. At the end of the day, being a good role model for them and making sure they had a great day is what mattered.