Misbehaving Parents at Summer Camp
A few summers ago, I worked as a CIT at a day camp I had attended as a child. You’d think that going to work at a place that was a major part of your childhood would be pretty awesome, but those eight weeks proved to be an utter disaster. I try not to think about it and, so far, I’ve been fairly successful at suppressing those memories.
But this article in the New York Times reminded me of a particularly nasty piece of work I encountered during my counseling duties that summer. She was the mother of two abnormally hyper and mischievous twin boys who I had to supervise on the bus every morning and afternoon. Frankly, the kids were easier to deal with than this woman. She makes the helicopter mothers mentioned in the article appear to be merely “concerned.”
In addition to supervising a group of kids at the camp, my older brother and I were bus counselors on the vehicle that transported campers in our area. Every morning as the bus approached her house, the crazy woman would come outside wearing her pink, flowery robe and greet us with a sickeningly sweet smile, only to go completely apesh*t on us that afternoon. She would yell at us the moment we pulled up, blaming us if she got a call that day from the camp about her devil spawns’ misbehavior.
I’m pretty sure she was bipolar, because one moment she would be calm, and the next she would be screaming like a banshee about how the camp was lying about her boys’ behavior and how we should be fired for not doing our job. She called the camp director just about every day to complain about us and the lousy job the boys’ group counselors were doing. I fought the urge to tell her that her parenting was the problem, not our performance.
One day was particularly horrible. My brother was sick, so I had to ride in the front and control these kids by myself. When we got to the twins’ house, their mother saw that my brother wasn’t on the bus and outright refused to let me help her sons into the bus. I couldn’t lay a finger on them or else she would start screeching. I decided that my arms weren’t long enough to box with her that morning, so I let her buckle them in herself and yell her head off at me for my brother’s absence, as if it was my fault. When we returned that afternoon, she alerted me that she had called the camp director and told her to fire both my brother and me (I later learned that this specific phone exchange had caused the director, usually an upbeat and friendly woman, to cry right in her office).
My brother and I held out until the Friday of the last week – known as “Palm Friday,” since the counselors generally get tips from the parents that day. The parents of every single kid on the bus tipped us except for the mother of those twins. She even had the nerve to say that she wasn’t going to tip us because we were – and I quote – “horrible excuses for camp counselors.”
Unfortunately, the woman and her twins live not too far from my street. I often pass by their house on my way home from school. But a friend of mine was unlucky enough to encounter her during the year. My friend was walking her dog around the woman’s house one day, and the moment the dog squatted on the lawn, the woman ran outside screaming, “MY KIDS PLAY ON THAT GRASS! GET YOUR DOG’S SH*T OFF MY LAWN!” My friend had a baggie with her and every intention of cleaning it up, but the woman wouldn’t calm down for a good ten minutes and even chased my friend out of the neighborhood.
I think it goes without saying that I didn’t return to the camp the next summer. When the mothers become worse than their kids, that’s when the real trouble starts. These experiences make for great stories, but eight weeks of suffering just isn’t worth it for me.
[Photo courtesy of NYTimes.com]