First Posted: 5/30/2014
Last summer I was a day camp counselor for five weeks. It was life-changing. Most people wouldn’t think of being a camp counselor as “eye-opening,” but it was.
It started out pretty typical. I was a volunteer counselor, so I got shifted from group to group with the 2-6 year olds. We’d have three activities, lunch, two more activities, and then swim. Activities ranged from arts and crafts to baseball to cooking. At any given time, another counselor and I would be in charge of seven campers.
And the campers is where it gets interesting.
Some were quiet, some would not stop screaming, they were all small but some were smaller than others, some liked to do everything and others were very selective, some had a ton of friends and others just stuck to the counselors, and in a way, they all made me a better person.
Watching little kids takes talent. Not everyone is good with kids; it’s kind of something you have to be born with or willing to develop. You need patience, reasoning, understanding, and compassion. You have to be able to get on their level and be their friend, while making sure they respect you at the same time.
It’s definitely a juggle.
Throughout the summer, the kids and I went through a lot together. Sunny days without sunscreen, mega rainstorms, the talent show, overcoming fears of swimming, learning how to make bracelets and play the piano, an intense color war, and a lot of lunches that didn’t taste like food.
It was really a five-week bonding experience between 12 counselors and the 60 kids in that unit. Saying goodbye was actually really hard, because we knew it would be a whole year before we saw each other again. We were like one big rag-tag family.
And how did it change my life?
I never realized the impact so may 2-6 year olds could have on my life. I always thought that I could only learn from people my age or older. These kids taught me patience, understanding, compassion. I learned how easy it is to shape young minds as well, and how careful you have to be about it, but also how creative you can get and how rewarding it is. I tried my hardest to create a positive atmosphere around them, and it was trial and error. Those kids had a fun summer, and I learned to love working with kids.
My only regret is not putting sunscreen on my kids during the hottest day of the year. Thankfully, I had co-counselors.