18 Things My 18 Campers Taught Me
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18 Things My 18 Campers Taught Me

Yes, I did say 18.

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18 Things My 18 Campers Taught Me

This past summer I got to spend every waking second with eighteen 13-year-old girls. Through the bickering, constant nagging and frequent fits of laughter, some lessons were learned along the way.

1. Never assume anything.

I assumed on the first day of camp that my girls knew how to make a bed. I was wrong. The egg crate goes BEFORE the fitted sheet, ladies. I also assumed that the girls would finish their summer reading on their own. Again, I was wrong. One week before camp ended I asked one of my girls what her summer reading was about. She giggled and then grabbed a 400 page book that was still in its plastic wrapping. I ended up reading the book to her.

2. You have to get creative.

In regards to the job wheel, words mean nothing. Regardless of how many times I told my girls what their jobs were, nothing ever seemed to get done. So, two weeks into the summer, my co-counselors and I decided to ditch the wheel and quarantine our campers in the bathroom until it was sparkling clean. Humane? No. Effective? Yes.

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3. Practice what you preach.

If you're going to tell your campers to participate in sports, you should probably participate, too. So lace up your sneakers and put away your fold up chairs. Even if you are the most unathletic person in camp, you can always do what I do and make up your own rules. (Confession for those that go to my camp: I do not actually know how to play flag football. But it is pretty impressive that I had the entire camp following my made up rules by the end of the summer).

4. Double check everything.

I learned this one the hard way. Teenage girls can be pretty sneaky. I would count heads while my girls left the bunk for morning line up before breakfast to make sure that none of them were still sleeping. I was pleasantly surprised by how responsible these girls were as they all were on time to line up for the first six weeks of camp. One day in the LAST week of camp I got a little lazy and decided to trust my campers and leave the bunk without counting them. That day four girls slept through line up.

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5. Never take anything too seriously.

After all, it is just camp. One time one of my campers sprayed me with a water gun...while I was on my bed. Everything in my area was drenched. So I did what any responsible counselor would do. I chased her out of the bunk and then came back and flipped her mattress. This practical joke probably wouldn't have gone over well with someone who had taken it too seriously. In the wise words of one of my counselors "don't get mad, get even."

6. Not everything is the end of the world.

The most dramatic event of my summer was bed lottery on the first day of camp. I never knew that sleeping on a top bunk would determine one's summer. But then I thought back to my camper days and remembered the fit that I used to throw about bed lottery. My sincerest apologies to my counselors, it only took me seven years to realize that sleeping on a low bed wasn't the end all, be all.

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7. Never take sides.

You never know who actually stole whose boyfriend.

8. Cherish your sleep.

People can get pretty cranky running on only four hours of sleep a night, especially me. You never know when a game of midnight bombardment is going to break out or your girls are going to "whisper" until 3 AM. So definitely schedule a nap during your off period.

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9. Anyone can be a practicing doctor.

The hike from our bunk to the health center was comparable to climbing Mount Everest. So that means that no medical condition was worth the journey down the hill to see the nurses. This also means that I was diagnosing diseases left and right. Let me just say, I am definitely not going into medicine any time soon.

10. Always practice time management.

You can never over estimate how much time it will take 18 girls to do something. You have to take into account just about every factor that could preclude your campers from getting anywhere on time. I reminded my campers to use the restroom before getting on the bus for an out of camp trip. What should have taken five minutes, ended up taking almost 30. The buses were ready to leave without us by the time they were done.

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11. Put yourself in their shoes.

I often would find myself questioning why my campers would get so upset about certain things that seemed so trivial to me. It took one of my old counselors (that I happened to be complaining to) to make me realize that I would get upset about those things at that age, too.

12. Pick your battles.

One morning I dropped something on the floor during breakfast. As I went to pick it up, I noticed the most peculiar thing. One of my campers was wearing four inch flatform heels. I sat up, looked at my co-counselor and decided to pretend like I never saw it. Later I found out that she couldn't find her slippers, so her next best option were the heels. But you know what? She wasn't late for breakfast and I guess that's all that really matters.

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13. Live in the moment.

There were some days that I would skip my off period to just sit on a bed and hang out with my girls. I would go days without going to the staff lounge to check my cell phone. My campers loved this, my mom on the other hand, did not.

14. Don't over step your boundaries.

As much as you might feel like a parent, you have to remember you aren't. That's especially important to remember when you are disciplining. One day my campers were late to a bunk activity. My co and I brainstormed punishments. We thought of making them come up early from canteen or an earlier lights out. Instead, we made them all wear signs that said "ask me why I am the worst." When someone asked them, they had to recite a word for word essay about their offense and beg for forgiveness. They were never late for any activity again.

15. Never judge a book by its cover.

I had eighteen 13-year-old campers this summer that had never been in a bunk together. Needless to say, I was scared out of my mind. I knew that every single one of them had a strong personality, so I expected this to be problematic. I can't say that we didn't get off to a rocky start, but once I got to know all of them, I was obsessed. I mean...I'm in college and talk to all of my girls once a day.

16. Take criticism graciously.

I would be leaving for an early night and my girls would knit pick my outfit, asking if I was REALLY going to wear that in public.

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17. Don't miss a second.

Even if you're in the middle of an amazing nap and you have the most dreadful activity next, get your butt up and go. I had to make the call on whether or not we showed up to our last activity or sat in the bunk and got ready for the out of camp trip. My girls complained the entire way up to the ZipLine that I was making them go. They made up the most creative count off during that period and (even if they didn't admit it), I know they were happy that I made them get out of bed and go.

18. To remember to tell someone how much you love them.

This is the most important thing that my girls have ever taught me. Watching their unconditional love for each other has made me appreciate the love that I have for the people in my life.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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