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Why New Year’s Resolutions Belly Flop and Other Things I Learned From Summer Camp

How three failed camps, two miserable children, and one dead frog made for an invaluable life lesson. A mother’s epiphany on how to teach our sinking New Year’s resolutions to stay afloat.

I’m all for a good plan. The challenge is when our best laid plans are tanking and we choose to sink over swim. We stick with the promise of success even when it should be obvious that we’re going under. It’s those countless hours of time and effort we’ve invested in said plan that can cloud judgment. We’re on an emotional wash, rinse and repeat cycle, denying us the clarity to affect change. Our stubborn and blind commitment stonewalls success. Yet we’re surprised when year after year the results are the same. Yours truly had her head under water during a summer of camp calamity.

Years ago I found what appeared to be the perfect solution for summer child care. I was reentering the workforce after previously being home with my two young children. After an exhaustive search I landed a marketing and public relations job at an iconic swim and tennis club. The perk was an idyllic summer camp and ready-made child care. There would be no working mom guilt as my kids would be nearby having the time of their lives.

On the first day of camp we arrived on time (after great effort) at the picnic table meeting area. My kids were signed up for tennis camp, which boasted multiple outdoor courts. The itinerary also included swimming in Olympic size pools that featured giant, twisting water slides. The camp was set on acres of beautifully preserved and bucolic grounds. I hugged my kids goodbye and cut through the campus to reach my office. I was ecstatic and a little emotional that my babies had the opportunity to attend this impressive camp. I felt like a veteran mom who scored a ‘win- win.’ Little did I know our plans were about to be s**t on. Quite literally.

The day went by quickly and with a bounce in my step I walked over to pick up my kids. I passed by dozens of smiling kids and then I spotted mine. I first noticed my daughter wasn’t wearing the same outfit she wore to camp that morning. I assumed messy arts and crafts must have been the culprit for the new wardrobe. As I drew closer my heart dropped when I saw two very unhappy faces and my daughter close to tears. She ran into my arms and exclaimed, “Stupid goose pooped all over me, Mommy!”  Apparently with hundreds of kids within poop range it was my kid who was the bullseye. The teenage counselor explained to me between hysterics, “Geez the geese must have had intestinal problems because we’ve never seen anything like it before. Epic! Pin point accuracy! We had to throw away her shirt.” Day one and already camp had gone to s**t.

Tennis camp was tainted from that point forward and met with mediocre enthusiasm at best. My kids never gelled with the counselors. I’m guessing the counselors didn’t gain favor when they sat in the shade as the mini campers picked up the gazillions of tennis balls. I decided that the second half of summer might fare better with camp specifically created for staffer’s children.  I tried to rally my kids who begged not to go and explained that this time it would be better. This camp was special because it was for kids of moms and dads who worked at the club. To my chagrin I soon learned that staff camp meant our kids weren’t granted access to the pools. Each day ended with two very overheated and exhausted campers. Add to that a football field length parking lot to reach our car. My son on occasion would decide his legs could no longer take another step. He would boycott the long walk and plop himself down on the asphalt in the midst of camp rush hour. The perfect storm for a mommy meltdown. I was determined that next year I’d find a camp that was sure to be a winner.

I was employed for over a year now, into the second summer, and well acquainted with my coworkers. They gave rave reviews about the Environmental Camp and its beloved counselors. I signed my kids up and assured them (and myself) that this would work. I was relieved when my kids greeted me the following afternoon with an enthusiastic hug. They were smitten with the counselors and the excursions to hiking trails, a lake, and even a garden. Success! They spoke in excited detail about their day despite one destructive boy whose goal was to destroy the community garden. As the days followed my kids continued to transform into avid camp enthusiasts. Unfortunately however, that same camper who stomped on plants had progressed to bugs. One beautiful sunny afternoon the counselors took everyone to the nature center. Unbeknownst to all of us, the fate of camp and an unsuspecting, rather plump frog was in the balance. The infamous camper held up his victim for fellow campers to see and proceeded to squeeze the life out of the frog. Blood, guts, and other unidentifiable liquids spewed out to the shrieks and horror of the group. Our camp days were over.

Three failed attempts and two miserable kids later, my plan had officially sunk. The painstaking, tireless work to find the “perfect” solution for my family made it difficult to let go of the dream. My fruitless efforts ended in a belly flop. I could still feel the sting. I eventually did find a better childcare fit for our family that didn’t resemble anything close to a camp. We can end up trying in vain to achieve our goals if we don’t become clear headed about our progress and path. The antithesis to success is getting mired down in ideas that don’t work. Let’s be mindful in 2019 of redundancy and dead ends. Instead let’s leap into the New Year and forge new paths, in memory of our little frog friend.  Otherwise our best laid plans will surely croak.

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