It’s something he looks forward to, and since he’s not interested in any other extracurricular activities his school offers, I’m glad he has a thing that feels like his.
And even though this isn’t an overnight camp— I drop him off every morning at 8am and pick him up at 4pm– I’m not comfortable sending him this year, so we are going to skip it.
First of all, the CDC guidelines for youth camps state that in order to remain at a low risk for contracting COVID-19, campers and staff must stay six feet apart and not share objects.
This is an interactive, nature camp. They hold bugs. They gather around to look at animal poop. They partner up to make boats together and race them in the stream. They swim at the end of the day before sitting in a circle and sharing their favorite activity. They touch each other, run around like wild things, and likely forget to wash their hands before they eat. It’s a camp.
The two-week session is designed for these kids to work together and explore. Almost all of that requires touching, sharing objects, and staying close.
The staff is amazing and I don’t know how they manage all those kids on a good week when things are normal. So even the best of the best would be hard pressed to take a bunch of tweens and teens on a nature walk and keep them six feet apart at all times.
I realize they can come up with other activities that are more individualized, but the group activities and standing close to examine the bark in a tree or an owl pellet is the very essence of the camp. The kids just won’t get the same experience if they are concentrating on being 6 feet away from everyone else (if that’s even possible).
It’s a lot to put on the staff. Making sure all kids are wearing their face masks correctly and diligently washing their hands (there’s no running water at this camp), or sanitizing, which is also on the CDC guidelines list, will be a full time job in itself. Again, it will take so much away from the experience— too much, if you ask me.
But my biggest concern is that the camp is open to all kids in our county and beyond. According to the CDC, the highest risk of contracting COVID-19 is in the following scenario: “Campers mix between groups and do not remain spaced apart. All campers are not from the local geographic area (e.g., community, town, city, or county).”
While our county has a relatively low number of cases, the county just south of us has a much higher number of active cases right now. The county south of that has even more. And so on and so forth. Camp is scheduled to start the week after July 4th. There’s no way the numbers will go down significantly in just a few weeks.
Not to mention we are talking about kids — kids who haven’t seen each other in a long time. They are going to want to touch, share snacks, get in as much quality time as possible, and run to see when their friend finds an unusual caterpillar or pile of moose turds.
I’m sad my son will be missing camp this year. He’s sad, too. But I’d rather have him be sad for a few weeks than risk getting sick, or being sick himself without any symptoms and passing it to someone else.
There will be other summers. And this summer, I’ll be stepping up to give him the dose of the outdoor-summer-camp-feel he needs.
Right now, there are three bottles of water on our deck with algae floating around in them because he tells me, “If you leave it in the sun, it will multiply.”
I mean, who doesn’t need more algae in their life?
He’s also growing mealworms he found in our duck house (I told him to keep those details to himself. I don’t want to know), we’ve planted a garden, and he has a queen ant in a test tube who’s about to shed her wings and start a colony of her own. We purchased an ant house for them with separate compartments, and it’s nicer than my first apartment.
But for the record, some queen ants can live for a decade, so I guess we’re in this for the long haul.
I’d love to be sending him to camp. But 2020 has not been a normal year for anyone. Not even a little.
He’s disappointed, but not devastated. Sitting this year out will make room for the kids who would be devastated, or whose parents don’t work from home, who need an exciting place to spend their days, to go and have a better experience.
And the way I see it, keeping him home from camp this year is a small sacrifice that will really hit home, teach him compassion, and how to think of the bigger picture here and not just the fact he’s sad about missing out.
But I can’t lie: I’m hoping that by this time next year, all will go back to our regularly scheduled program. Because I can only handle one summer of bugs and algae peppered throughout my house.
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