My 4-year-old twins are signed up for day camp for two weeks this summer: one they've already done, and the other they're about to start. I knew that getting them adjusted to it was going to be a hurdle: it's their first time spent in an institutional atmosphere (they were in a family-based daycare prior to this), and it is in French, the girls' second language.
I have had reservations about this camp from the beginning: they seem grossly disorganized, and there has been a never-ending fiasco with the girls' swim caps not coming home at the end of the day. They need the caps for time in the pool, and they denote by colour what level of swimmer the girls are (i.e. non swimmers/minimal skills). I have not even laid a hand on A's cap because it's never made it home, and yet the camp has been insistent that I need to pay $5 to replace the cap each time. Tomorrow, for instance, I am supposed to start the day by buying her yet another cap, which makes for a cap a day since camp began (their father and I have managed to convince them not to charge us twice, but that's still $15 we have put into caps that neither of us has ever seen).
Added to the stress, and indeed the biggest source of stress for me since the beginning, is the fact that this province has an abominable record for drownings, mostly of children, and mostly due to lack of proper supervision. While the majority of the drownings (over 40 this summer alone) have occurred in private pools at residences, the very first day we got back from vacation last week, the first news story I heard was about a 5-year-old in critical condition after nearly drowning in a day camp in the neighbourhood adjacent to ours. I am very uneasy about this fact and have never been comfortable with the idea of my children around water without me or their father present. The fact that this camp seems disorganized and run by overly young people does not help ease my concern.
In addition, the girls are adamant about not going back, saying that there is a wicked witch there that's not imaginary (they play imaginary games at camp) and begging me to "go see for myself." I asked the girls' dad, who had them this weekend, to get to the bottom of these allegations by asking them about it further and he came back and got the girls to recite by rote: "We have to go to camp tomorrow because mama and papa have to work." That wasn't what I wanted. I have asked the girls to go along with camp for tomorrow but that I wanted them to remember everything that happened there and to tell me clearly at the end of the day the truth about their experiences. I'm thinking I'll pull them from it if need be, but in truth right now I don't even want to send them tomorrow. I have a sick feeling about it. My work is at home and on my thesis so if I have to sacrifice this week, I will.
Please help, hivemind. I don't know what to do.
They're 4. Their best attempt at truth is going to bear no resemblance to what you need to know. They are not reliable witnesses, no matter how verbal or cognitively advanced they may be, at the age of 4. My nine year old isn't the most reliable witness, I usually get a mix of truth and what she wishes were true/fears... and she's incredibly perceptive and articulate.
The wicked witch could be some horrifyingly absusive evil person, it's also equally likely that it's someone who looks odd, or someone who yells too much, or someone who didn't let them have more than one freezie. The trouble with 4 is that you really can't count on what they say as being true in the way you need to be able to make decisions. So you have to go with your gut feel, what you've observed, and dude... you've seen enough.
If you have *that* bad a feeling about it and it's working at home, pull them. Then call whoever is in charge of the camp to let them know why. Focus on the things you've already seen and can prove: gross disorganization, missing caps etc. Point out how this does not bode well for confidence in safety, and that is simply unacceptable. Then follow that up with a letter to that groups boss/parent organization (a lot of the daycamps around here are run by the county).
Safety first. I picked my 7 year old up from a daycamp where she showed me a picture of her with a mother f*cking ball python around her neck (it's a nature centre daycamp and they have several animals in residence). This freaked me the hell out, but I at NO point had any concern for her safety or well being or happiness. It just freaked me out because it was a gorram python. Around her neck. My situation: no action required. Your situation: I say safety must trump all other concerns. If you are able to pull them, DO SO.
Yeah, what wookie said, pretty much.
If your kids are not strong swimmers (which I'm gathering they're not), and you feel the camp is disorganized and that they might not be gettting adequate supervision while in or near the water, then I agree that you should definitely pull them out. Go with your gut on this one, I would.
Thanks, everyone. I'm going to bring the girls tomorrow and ask to speak to the director and will raise the issue of the swim caps and say that their constant disappearance raises concerns for me about how attentive camp leaders are with the children around the water. I'm also going to ask what time the swimming will be that day so that I can be there to observe. I may decide to just pull them from pool activity.
As for disorganization, when we went to the 2-hour orientation session, we learned that it was in fact a window for us to go into a chaotic gymnasium in which people who were supposed to be organizing the parents into groups had no idea what was going on; we then lined up where we were told only to find out that the person was dealing with 5-year-olds in that subgroup, so we had to re-line-up again. The counsellors seem so discombobulated whenever I am there, and the girls are often sitting glum-looking on the floor awaiting my arrival. A has said she liked it, but E has given me grief about it since day 1, and E is the stronger French speaker of the two.
Here's the news story about the drowning I mentioned. Four children died and this one almost did, all during my 13-day vacation out of province:
Sounds like you have a good plan. I'd be worried about it too. Good luck.
I opted to keep the girls home today. I didn't sleep well last night, and was dragging my feet on getting the morning going, dreading dealing with things. It's stinking hot here, too, which isn't helping. I just packed a picnic and we're going to a playground with a water spray park attached so we can get some relief from the heat. I told them that we're going to go to camp tomorrow, and I'll talk to the director then. Thanks, everyone.
Keeping them home sounds like a good plan for today. When you're that uncomfortable with the situation there is no point in sending them there--you wouldn't be able to work on your thesis anyway, you'd be worrying about their safety!
Ah, now your fb makes sense! Good lord, I would have done the same thing. Sometimes it's just best to go with your gut. And that level of disorganization does not bode well. At all.
Forty drownings!! That's appalling and frightening. If you can take the time off, the I'd sacrifice it, including from the entire camp. That's scary. Always go with your gut.
Girl Grey attended a sports camp for several weeks last summer and the summer before and it suffered from the same inattentiveness, probably due to young, inexperienced, immature counselors. She liked the activities, but didn't have a good time over all, plus there were problems with bullies. Luckily GG knows how to swim, but the camp takes kids at age three. I could not possibly imagine sending Baby Grey to that place. Last year they had promised reorganization from the year previous, so we gave it a second try. Never again. This is a very uppity gym, so you might expect better.
Needless to say, GG did not go back this summer and she is LOVING her camps this year. I've never seen her so engaged and happy.
Seems like a smart decision, GG. You've got to do what feels right.
Out of curiosity, why the high numbers of drownings, do you think? I know they're a leading cause of death for kids here, but not forty in a summer.
State law here (or DCFS guidelines) is that you have to wear a lifejacket when swimming as part of daycamp/daycare unless you have passed a swimming test. Water still scares the crap out of me, though, and I will definitely make sure that we are comfortable with giving up the life jacket even if he passes the test. A kid drowned in the suburbs here on a daycamp sponsored trip, which only increased my fear level about swimming with groups. (Of course, the lifejacket thing isn't foolproof. They aren't designed for swimming, but I guess I will take it above nothing.)
And although in theory I agree about a 4-year-old's perception of the world, my kid lies rarely. And I have seen incidents unfold that happened exactly how he described. I would trust him. But, as has already been said, even if there is exaggeration, they've already told you enough.
So, yeah, pull them if you are able.