It’s mid-day and I’m working from home. My cell phone rings. The caller ID reads the name of my 4-year-old’s day camp. I brace myself knowing that schools rarely call with good news. I wonder if my daughter is sick, but hope she’s not. I wonder if some kid pulled her hair or bit her, but hope no one did. And I wonder if she pulled someone’s hair or bit a friend, but pray that she didn’t.
I answer the phone and before I can even say hello the administrator on the other end of the line says, “Everything’s fine…” Then she goes on to tell me that my daughter bumped heads with another friend. “Ice and love have been given to both,” the administrator says. Everything’s fine, but she wanted me to know.
My older child is 7, so I’ve received dozens of calls from summer camp like this one. And without fail each call begins with, “Everything’s fine, but…” from a well-meaning administrator or teacher trying to calm the anticipated parental storm. That’s because no matter what, we parents automatically go into a mental tailspin when we see that our child’s camp is calling. In fact, a good teacher or administrator can make everything sound fine when they call and say it is. Here are all the “Everything’s fine, but…” calls I’ve received from camp. Did I miss any?
1.Your kid is sick. Turns out everything isn’t fine, but my kid’s well-meaning teachers always want to assure me that my kid isn’t dying…she just has a cold. This call only seems to come after I’ve been on vacation, the one day I desperately need to catch up on things.
2. Your kid pulled another kid’s hair. Thankfully terrible behavior in preschool-age kids is considered developmentally appropriate. My son was in a day camp full of biters at that age, but I couldn’t be smug when I got the call to say he’d pulled another kid’s hair. Turns out, teachers think biting and hair pulling are all the same and all just part of what little kids do. I worried about it more than the camp administrator did, but everything was fine and he never did it again.
3. Your kid was bitten by another kid. I’ve always thought both my son and daughter were delicious, but apparently their friends do, too. So with each child, I’ve received my share of calls telling me another kid took a bite out of one of mine. It’s incredibly disturbing, but usually harmless. Hopefully all kids grow out of the biting and hair-pulling phases so their moms don’t have to be on the tail end of this kind of call.
4. Your kid said something totally outrageous. Yes, my son did tell his classmates he wanted to build a bomb. Yes, his camp administrator did call me slightly panicked. No, he’s not dangerous. Turns out my kid didn’t totally understand what bombs do and the destruction they can cause. Plus, he was 6 at the time. Six-year-olds are very unreliable reporters!
5. Your kid forgot his lunch. Every parent will get this call dozens of time in their career as a parent of a camp-aged child. The first time you get this call, you feel embarrassed and apologetic. You leave work to bring him his lunch. By the fourth time, you tell the teacher to give him a bowl of the cereal (or whatever else is lying around for snack)…and then threaten to ground him the minute he gets home if he ever forgets his lunch again.
6. Your kid has a major case of the sillies. Thankfully I’ve only received this call once, but once is enough. And even though I don’t want my kid to be silly or disruptive, I know that even as an adult sometimes I just can’t stop laughing. At least I know my kid is having a good time.
And whether everything is fine or it isn’t, I feel fortunate to have well-meaning and thoughtful teachers and administrators at both my children’s summer camps. It can’t be easy to call anxious parents!