When our two daughters were 10 and 12, they spent hours during the winter in a closet next to the furnace making detailed plans for hosting a summer camp. They invited children for whom they babysat, and the backyard summer camp filled up every year for two weeks a year for the next nine years.
My role was supervising bathroom traffic and being available in event of an emergency, which we fortunately never had. Of course, no one would do such a thing today without liability waivers and umbrella insurance policies, but that was then and this is now.
Camp often ended with the girls bickering over which one was being bossy and who needed to clean up what and then they both collapsed in exhaustion on the sofa.
Now, some 18 years later, with pandemic concerns still floating and many summer camps cancelled, the girls rebooted the backyard summer camp.
Together they have six preschool and elementary school children. They also invited a friend who grew up down the block to bring her elementary school-age daughter.
Camper screenings this time around were not about asthma or food allergies, but math computations on how many people each camper and their family had been exposed to, multiplied by the number of people the other campers and their families had been around. The results were a satisfactory small number and camp commenced.
Camp followed the old format: welcome activities, songs, story time, a craft project, a science project, lunch, all followed by changing into swimsuits and water play.
Two of the three moms, er, camp directors, have worked as teachers and the third as a physician assistant in cardiology. One of the teachers did a science project each day and the other a craft, both outdoing themselves with years of experience and resources, while the physician assistant provided snacks and was on standby for first aid.
Science time was over the top with lessons and activities on chromatography, centrifuge, sound waves and plant parts.
But science was overshadowed by a relay race where campers passed a cup of water overhead, often spilling it on someone else’s head.
The crafts were clever, cute, and creative, but they were eclipsed by a contest where players dunked a sponge in water, ran it to a bucket and squeezed it out. The first team to fill the bucket won.
Every craft, science project, story and song evaporated under the heat of the summer sun next to the glee of dumping entire buckets of water on each other’s heads. You want water? You got water!
The ultimate hits were water balloons and a pinata on the last day, which was followed by spraying each other down with the hose and more buckets of water.
All that to say, if you’ve missed summer camp this year, turn the kids loose with a garden hose and it will be time for school to restart before you know it.
Some things never change.
Oh, and the really good news — the camp directors didn’t bicker this time around, although they did collapse in exhaustion after the last day.
Lori Borgman is a columnist, author and speaker. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.