Tuesday, January 14, 2003

I just don't remember it being this complicated.

This evening I attended a parents' informational meeting for a four-day outdoor camp. It is offered through the school and will run from March 10th to the 14th (Monday to Thursday), meaning the kids get to be there instead of going to school. They bring sleeping bags and enough clothes for four days and it's a big sleepover get-together. Banana insisted we go to the meeting so that she had a chance at attending the camp. The fact that there had to be a meeting should have been my first clue that something was up.

The session started innocently enough. A handout was distributed with details of the camp – location and dates, what to bring, first aid consent form - the usual stuff. They showed slides of the facilities, which looked like camps I remembered from my youth. A row of small sleeping cabins, one large common house / dining hall, playgrounds, playgrounds, all surrounded by woods (with a brook running through the woods, no doubt). I’m sure the woods were riddled with pathways, marshy spots, fallen trees and bugs and frogs. The camp combines theoretical studies (physics, biology, mathematics, social studies ) and puts them into practical application (levers out of fallen trees, using shadows to calculate tree height, types of native bugs and plants, first nations traditions, etc.). In short, a child's paradise.

Then the parental stupidness and overprotectiveness started. What follows are actual questions from parents of ten- and eleven-year-old children. I couldn't believe my ears. They range from slightly paranoid to wildly overprotective.
  • "If my child is a fussy eater, am I allowed to send extra food along with them?"
  • "My child likes to snack during the day. Can they bring extra treats in their bag and keep them in their sleeping quarters?"
  • "What kind of security do you have at the camp after hours?"
  • "Are you peanut free?"
  • "Are children allowed to call home if they are homesick?"
  • "Can I send bottled water for my child to drink?"
  • "What sort of food will be served to the children?
  • "Do you perform (police) background checks on all your staff?"
  • "The description of the activities show most of the day will be spent outside. What specific activities do you have planned for the children?"
  • What activities do you have for children that don’t fall asleep at 9:30 pm (the 'lights out' time)?"
  • "How do you wake the children up in the morning?"
As the questions got dumber and dumber, it was all I could do to keep myself from running up and giving the offender a good shake and asking them, "Don't you remember being a kid?". The camp counselor that had come to present had undoubtedly heard all these questions before and answered them in a polite and patient fashion. He even stated what I thought was a given - no electronic gadgets allowed. "Of course not," I thought to myself, "it's a camp." Still, there were some surprised looks for other parents.

It becomes more and more obvious why the youth of today appear coddled and blatantly shirk any shred of self-responsibility. It's not the kids, it's the way the parents raise them.

No comments: