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From the mind of mom: On camps, kids and chaos

Love them or hate them, North Carolina summers are the type of sensory experience that can stick with you no matter where you meander in life.

The thought comes to me as I duck under a prickly, parched tree limb in the woods of Dan Nicholas Park. It’s just after 1 p.m., meaning my southern state is swathed in a mixture of heat and humidity that I’ll forever be surprised doesn’t produce steam, and I’m chasing after a group of middle school students in the throes of summer camp. A day in the life of an education reporter during summer vacation.

Pen poised and ready for note-taking, I ignore another demand for bug spray (thanks again, North Carolina climate), and hear the words I didn’t know I was waiting for:

“This wasn’t my idea, you know.”

“What wasn’t your idea?”

“To be outside. To be in the woods.”

The interchange strikes me, first for its humor coming from an enrollee in an outdoor survival skills camp. Second, I think as I swallow my urge to laugh out loud, how clearly I can hear those words coming from my own daughter as I planned her days of — ahem — summer fun.

“Guess what? Mommy signed you up for soccer camp!” I say, expecting a gasp of excitement. Instead, my daughter looks at me like I’ve grown a second head. That nose I find adorable in all other instances wrinkles and I think, “Oh geez, I wonder if they’ve deposited that check?”

But such is the struggle of an enthusiastic and working parent in that scramble to account for that stretch of time between spring semester and fall. The mailers hit us, the sponsored Facebook posts — our adult eyes see new experiences, occupied days and our young charges growing as individuals.

And our kids? Our kids see something else taking them away from the pool, the TV, the couch, the bed, the swingset — somedays. Somedays, skepticism is replaced with enthusiasm and they’re the ones waking us up in the morning, waving camp shirts like victory banners and demanding to know if it’s time to go.

So here’s to you, you well-intentioned moms and dads and caregivers. Maybe soccer isn’t their thing, maybe survival skills won’t be necessary, but you tried — and they tried — and how would anyone have known otherwise?

They’re learning, they’re trying, they’re growing — and so are you.

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