Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Further elaboration on an earlier comment

So, earlier today I posted some random stuff. Perhaps I should explain #4.

Both of my girls are going to Girl Scout camp this week. It's a day camp, but still has a lot of the traditional components of sleep-away camp: arts and crafts, sports and games, singing songs, splashing in the creek, etc.

I have heard terrific things about this camp, which has been in existence for decades. The girls have fun and also learn more about the Girl Scout way.

Unfortunately, I have been frustrated just by the experience of registering for and preparing my girls for this week. We registered early in the spring, yet received no information until just a few weeks ago. You know, important details, such as what equipment and supplies the girls need to take this week. Most of it is seemingly normal common stuff -- backpacks, lunch boxes, etc. -- but the girls are required to have water shoes, which are simply impossible to find in our town in June. They sell out before Memorial Day and then none are available anywhere. Believe me, I searched. I ended up spending almost $50 to have two pairs sent to me from Lands End, who admittedly puts out a quality product, but that's not money I want to spend on shoes that the girls will wear five times each this summer.

(And why do water shoes stink so very much after just the first wearing? My stomach almost heaved its contents when I emptied backpacks at 4:30 and set the shoes out in the sun to dry.)

And then there are the regulations. The girls MUST have this but CANNOT have that. They MUST do this, parents CANNOT do that. Many, many rules and regs, which the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. seems to excel at. I understand that these are important and there for the overall health and safety of the girls, but it still feels a bit like being in a dictatorial society.

What I don't understand is why the communication was so piss poor that we weren't informed until the last minute and not told about other things at all. There were huge gaps in the information and the only way the other parents and I were able to fill these gaps was through the parent-to-parent network. (Really, it was the mom-to-mom network, but I'm sure there could be a dad in there somewhere.)

As I've mentioned before, my sister is the director of a girls' camp in Maryland. Let me assure you, communication from the camp to the parents is much, much better. Very clear and very complete. I knew well in advance what supplies my girls needed, what their daily activities were, and everything else that a parent should know.

I understand that there's a huge difference between a Girl Scouts camp that is $100 for the week and staffed largely by volunteers and the camp my sister runs, which is more than three times the cost and staffed by, well, staff. All the same, communication is essentially free and vitally important to parents.

Also not found at my sister's camp: At the Girl Scouts camp, the girls have chores every day, including cleaning the bathrooms, which are very rustic camp facilities. I don't know about you, but there's something just not right about having six year old girls to clean crappers. And, the best I can tell, the adults and teenage counselors aren't doing much cleaning. Maybe they are, but none of the children I've quizzed have seen it.

Yes, yes, I know that it's good for the girls to have some responsibilities and to take part in chores. I'm on board with that, really I am. However, there's a difference between asking little girls pick up trash and having them scrub filthy toilets covered in fecal germs AND NOT USE RUBBER GLOVES. Yes, you read that correctly. Luckily, by yesterday, neither one of my girls had had latrine duty yet.

I spoke with the camp director on the phone yesterday and expressed mild concern about this. I didn't go into full-on Bitchy Mom mode for two reasons: 1) It's simply not necessary or appropriate and 2) the camp director had had a difficult day already because of some other issues and I didn't want to make her day worse. I asked what cleaning solutions are being used (some variant of Pine Sol, she thought, but wasn't sure) and if the girls were wearing rubber gloves (mmm, no, not really). I very politely explained that our children aren't allowed to use cleaning solutions at home and, for health reasons, I cannot allow it camp either. The director was very nice and said my girls can sweep or do something similar this week.

(I'm not bullshitting about the "health reasons" thing either. There are some studies that suggest that Tourette Syndrome symptoms could have some links to environmental and/or chemical factors. In short, while TS is neurological, certain factors can actually cause or worsen Graceful's tics, including exposure to chemicals. Consequently, we use a lot of organic cleaning supplies in this house.)

(Also, Elegant is such a fucking spaz at times -- and we all know how much I love this girl -- that she would totally do something stupid like clean a toilet and then scratch her face with her germ-covered hand and then get the bubonic plague or something.)

So, anyway, I'm a bit displeased about this whole cleaning thing, which, combined with the crappy communications, has me wondering if I should send some very polite emails next week with some constructive suggestions for the coming year. Not that MY girls will necessarily be going back. I haven't decided yet.

I have to say, my girls are having a blast this week. They're playing, making art, singing, trying new things, splashing in the creek, making new friends, and doing all the things that campers do. They're having a terrific time each day and then coming home happy and tired. I know that the people who run the camp are working hard to ensure that this is a good week for the girls. I'm simply kvetching a bit about two things for which I have positive suggestions to alleviate for next year.

Thoughts on this? Am I overreacting?


Jen (not THE Jen) said...

It was me that sent the Brownie comment.

I'm hating that I sent you on the defensive, and I do apologise. I
just wanted to give a Brownie leader's perspective. And for the record,
our girls get washing up gloves when they clean, and I only expect them
to make it not filthy, I don't expect the loos to shine till they can
see their faces or anything.

Carry on blogging, I have my own Graceful/Elegant, aged 8 3/4, as
well as a Clumsy aged nearly 4, and I love reading your perspective on a
lot of the stuff I deal with too.


Jennifer said...

Jen (not me, the other one) -

Oh honey, I wasn't on the defensive! Your earlier comment made me realize that I hadn't fully elaborated on why I was upset and that I needed to clear up a few things.


- Jennifer

QueenMother said...

Uh, gross, gross, and gross. I hated Girl Scout Day camp particularly for the latrines. It almost ruined camping for me..ok-I hate camping anyway if it doesn't involve a six figure RV with a flat screen, but I digress.

Good for you standing up for your ladies and keeping them safe. Much love, QM

Aims said...

I remember from my camps back in the olden days that we always had to clean - "learn responsibilities" etc. The counsellors didn't clean, and we must have cut their admin bills a lot. I don't ever recall being pissed that I had to clean, but I think your point about basic hygeine is important. Gloves should be mandatory. I can understand your predicament as no-one wants to be a fretty mother but seriously, that's just gross! Stick to your guns!