The secret life of a summer camp counselor


Zoey Becker, Editor-in-Chief

I spend my summers working and living with 12 to 13-year olds in the middle of the woods. Every summer, I question why I keep coming back- I have dealt with children that I seriously think were raised by Satan himself. I’ve dealt with children who refuse to shower, and children who wet the bed. I’ve worked with 12-year old mean girls and bullies, compulsive liars, and whiners. One of my personal favorites was a 12-year old girl from Russia, who we somewhat lovingingly dubbed “Stalin”. Stalin was every counselor’s nightmare. My favorite memory of this camper was when she decided she was allergic to rain. Or maybe it was when she claimed to not be able to walk, but was magically fixed when a counselor gave her “special medicine”- which was really just lotion from Bath and Body Works. No, my all-time favorite Stalin memory was definitely when she fell off of her bottom bunk and pretended to be paralyzed for two hours, causing pretty much everyone on duty, including nurses and directors, to panic and rush to her cabin- even though she was faking the whole time. Honorable mention: that time when she literally tried to suffocate a fellow camper with a pillow in the girl’s sleep. But actually, my favorite was when she waved a final goodbye from the departing golf cart in the middle of breakfast because the director had finally had enough. I miss her every day.

But another thing I’ve learned is that for every devil child, there are five angel children. There are always the kids who can change your day with just a smile, the kids who call you “effortlessly beautiful” when you complain about your natural hair and who make you friendship bracelets and glitter posters. There are the kids who change your life and make you think a little differently about the world. When I was dealing with children who made me stressed and sad, it was nice to often come back to a letter on my bed from a camper who left the previous session, telling me how much she misses me and camp and writing extensive paragraphs about what her dog did that day.

There was a camper last summer who lived in China. It was her first time at camp, and she had a rough first couple days- not really bonding well with others and having difficulty with the language barrier. On a particularly hot day, we did Slip n’ Slide with the kids. Usually about half of the group of 12-year olds think they’re too cool for sliding down a huge tarp, but the other half loves it. This camper was part of the second half. She jumped back in line again and again, and I will never forget the sound of her laugh as I sprayed her with water. Witnessing and being a part of that pure, unfiltered joy is why I keep coming back to camp. Sure, there will always be the difficult children, but every frustrating moment is worth it for all that utter joy that I see every day at my job.