Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Camps, Sickness and Smell

[This post was originally published at Forbes.com on 22nd July 2012]
As regular readers are possibly aware, all three of our children (ages 13, 11 and 7) are away at Camp this month. We have been in irregular communication with them consisting of emails sent by us through
Contagion (film)
Contagion (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
the Bunk 1 service and intermittent letters sent by them through the ordinary post. In our case, we have recounted in detail all of the activities we have been able to undertake (mostly travel) because we aren’t with them. In their case, there is a recount of activities they have been involved in, a description of other kids they like or dislike and then complaints as to the things other children where allowed to bring that we prohibited based on our ‘letter of the law’ reading of camp rules.
This weekend, however, was Visitor’s Day where we can travel a few hours north to visit our children at camp. That was the plan. However, last week, we were informed that our youngest children had succumbed to what appears to have been a major outbreak of stomach flu. They recovered in time for Visitor’s Day but enough other children were still ill that the whole day changed. It was supposed to be a situation where we went to see the camp and what our kids had been up to. Instead, it turned into a highly structured set of manoeuvres whereby we could pick up our children to take them out for a few hours. We had to drive up to a location far from the camp. We could not leave our vehicle. Our children could then walk to the vehicle and get in but not before another dose of hand sanitizer.
As it turned out, our children were well acquainted with the ‘Plague protocols’ that turned out to be closely modelled on the movie Contagion. For a week they had been living in a strictly enforced totalitarian regime. No one could get food or touch anyone without permission. Whole cabins were quarantined. That may have sounded bad but, as it turned out, being sick had the silver lining of a break from camp activities and lounging around watching TV. All in all, this proved an education for the children in germ warfare. That said, it is unclear that it did much good. What it did do is keep the whole plague under wraps. When we took our children into town they were all blissfully unaware of the pox that had hit their area.
The sickness had another advantage. Normally, picking up kids from camp is an unpleasant activity. When we drove our eldest back from New Hampshire last year to Boston, we almost died of the smell. We were prepared for the worst this time around but it turned out that part of the protocols was rigidly enforced washing. That saved us much distress.
Our expectation had been that the kids would not want to see us. As it turned out, the tough week had softened them up and they were all happy to be free of austerity for a little while. While we didn’t get to see camp life we got to hear all about it. I suspect all three will be returning next year.
We were also softened up for all this. Thanks to Bunk1, whose incentives are to ensure that parents never forget their children are at camp so that they will write more emails, we had been peppered with Newsletters about things that can go wrong. Here is one. I enjoyed the tick advisory. That seemed to involved wrapping your children in clothes and giving them a level of organization unprecedented for anyone other than Mr Monk.
Of course, the Bunk1 theme has spread through the Internet. In particular, the nightly search through hundreds of photos for one with your own child. Here is a great video capturing the situation there.