Blab Blab Blab

Summer is gone, or, PHEW!

Ethan spent just over three weeks at the  beginning of the summer at my in-laws’ place in Idaho, having so much fun every single day. My mother-in-law made sure there was always something to do, whether it be swimming at the community pool with Grandma, building a Rube Goldberg machine in the garage with Grandpa, going to the movies in town, or learning how to play Monopoly (apparently his first game lasted three hours long, and he won!). My mother-in-law even took him and his thirteen-year old cousin on a three-day camping trip to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park. (When I asked him if Old Faithful was taller than Daddy, he replied, “MOMMMMAYYYYY! Of COURSE it’s taller than Daddy! It’s like, fourteen or maybe thirteen feet tall!”)

Between Camp Grandma+Grandpa and the preceding trip we took to Seattle, there were only three and a half weeks left on the summer calendar to fill. I needed to find a place where we could register by the week, and fun field trips were important.

On paper (or rather, the internet), the summer camp we ultimately chose looked awesome. My girlfriend was considering this place for after-school care for her daughter, and had visited the facility during the spring to check it out. She came back from her visit with high praise. Indoor bouncy house! Indoor trampoline! Kids being helped with their homework! I trust her judgment. I signed Ethan up for his three and a half weeks sight-unseen.

That was a mistake.

It’s not that my friend has bad judgment. She has fantastic judgment. In fact, I trust her with my son’s life. She has been on, and will continue to be on every single emergency contact form for Ethan. Ethan calls her “Auntie,” and knows her word is just as powerful as mine and Jack’s.

But she was observing the after-school care part of the program, and she was there for just a short amount of time. I probably would have walked away with the same positive feelings as she had.

Ethan spent a total of three weeks at this camp, and I can confidently say he will never go there again. HE had the time of his life, zooming around this place that allowed the kids to run around barefoot on the concrete floors. They went on field trips twice a week. They went to the park at least one day a week. It WAS fun for him… mostly.

Communication with the parents — or at least communication with me — was abysmal. I had no clue what their policies were on food, dress, etc. I didn’t find out until midway through the second week that Ethan had a folder for me to check everyday… with HOMEWORK to do! I found out one morning, when I was dropping him off:

Me: Oh, look! There is something in his cubby. Sorry, I didn’t notice it earlier!

This is a cubby which HE CAN’T REACH, by the way.

Camp Counselor: Oh, THERE’S his homework! We were asking him where it was and he said he didn’t know.

Clearly he didn’t put it there, SINCE HE CAN’T REACH IT.

Me: He has homework? No one ever told me!

She looks at me weirdly, and then shows me the folders as I flip through the homework pages. Adjectives, nouns, verbs…

Me: Wow! This seems kind of advanced. How many other Kindergarteners are there?

Her: Wait, what? He’s in Kindergarten?

Me: Yes. He starts in a few weeks.

Her: He told me he was going into First Grade!

Me: Wow, really? He must have wanted to do the same work as his friend. But when I registered him, I put down that he was going into Kindergarten. You don’t have that paperwork?

Her: Oh, the director has that information, but I don’t. I believed him when he told me he was in First Grade. He’s keeping up with the work.

I’m dumbfounded. You’re going to take the word of a FIVE-YEAR OLD, LADY??

Me: You don’t get a list from the director?

With her shake of the head, I had to control myself from lecturing. If that had been the only transgression, I would have probably laughed it off. Ethan is a smart kid, and tall. I have no doubts that my kid who can read and write and do basic math could keep up with kids a year older, but the counselor should have known. He becomes their responsibility when I drop him off. They should have all known.

My girlfriend says, “We’re not getting the top-notch care we are used to from preschool, anymore, Abi. Our kids are going to be expected to take more responsibility for themselves.”

Yeah, okay, but how far does that extend? We paid for the mac-n-cheese lunch one day only to find out he didn’t get it, instead eating only the snacks I packed in place of an actual meal. For his second field trip (the first Friday he was there), they went to Hurricane Harbor. I sent Ethan to camp that day with a rash guard — you know, a water shirt with UV protection. He also had his own sunscreen there that I had given them permission to apply. Apparently, toward the end of the day, Ethan decided to take off his rash guard because his friend took off his. So he came home without his rash guard (brand new, never to be seen again), and his very first sunburn, and a bad one at that. So bad that he cried at the slightest touch. So bad that we skipped his shower for the next three nights because the water hit his skin too hard.

I was livid. On Monday I inquired about their application of sunscreen. I was given a look like, “We don’t understand how he could have gotten burned,” and was told they had applied sunscreen four times to the kids that day. Clearly, when he took off his rash guard, he wasn’t being well supervised.

Luckily, we had a second rash guard, albeit a long-sleeved one, in the house, because I couldn’t find a replacement for the lost one at any store. For his next field trip — to the beach — the Wednesday after Friday’s sunburn, he knew better than to take it off.

Even so, that night, my baby’s back looked like this:

sunburn

Five days post-burn.

We didn’t really have any last-minute options for other child care, so we gritted our teeth, and were relieved to find out that the extended care program through his new school opened the Monday before the first day of school (which is today… more on that later), and our first month’s payment covered that full day care. The last day of camp was to be Ethan’s final field trip day — one more trip to Hurricane Harbor — but when he told me the night before that he really didn’t want to go, I didn’t push. We spent that day together, he watching videos in the morning while I got some work done, and then we spent the afternoon together, running errands. I was glad to have that bit of time with him — just the two of us. Jack picked up Ethan’s things from camp after work that day, and we were glad to wash our hands of that place.

I don’t really know if there is a lesson to be learned here. As I said, I would have likely had the same positive reaction as my friend who screened the place. Maybe I could have worked harder to find alternate care once the camp’s true colors started to show. Maybe I should have made my displeasure with the camp more obvious. I think my thoughts were that he would only be there a  short time, and we just had to get through it. If he had been unhappy, or I felt he were in mortal danger, I would have pulled him in a heartbeat.

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