All Work and Fun Play

Crying campers, sticky little hands and wet swimsuits are a part of a counselor’s satisfying day’s work. 

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2012. 

I wait outside for my campers in the blistering heat — there’s not a cloud in the sky. It’s 9:30 a.m. and already 80 degrees — “hello summer.” My mosquito bites itch and my patience runs thin as I wait for my kids to hop out of their cars with their cute but ratty princess bags so I can take them inside. Some of the girls sport pigtails, which only add to their cuteness.

Once we settle the campers in the brightly lit bunk room we have to keep them occupied, hoping they won’t start to cry from homesickness. My work starts as soon as the door closes to the bunk room and doesn’t end until pick up time at 3:45.

We have a camper who cries for her sister every single morning, Monday through Friday between 9:30 and 10. Tears stain her pretty pink shirts and dresses. If you try to talk to her she will only blubber, “Rachel” (her big sister’s name) for the first half hour of camp every day.

This is the first summer I start to make real dough. I never thought it would happen, but I’m actually getting paid to do something I surprisingly enjoy. If you love your job, responsibility can be fun too.  Lizzie Zakaim, in the middle, with two of her coworkers at day camp.

I’m a junior counselor in Chabad Kiddie Camp in the Teaneck Jewish Center in Teaneck, N.J. I have 12 4-year-old girls in my bunk. They’re cute, whiny and all girly. I love all of them and I get a warm feeling inside when I am able to comfort them. I enjoy the craziness and fun that comes along with my campers and co-workers.

The work is preparing me for skills I will need in the real world. I learn how to work with other people, whether I like them or not; fortunately this summer everyone is kind when it comes down to it. Photo: Camp Staff — Lizzie Zakaim, in the middle, with Dina Stibetzki on the left and Daniella Schulhoff on right.

Along with loving my job, I enjoy the experience of making money for the first time. This first job is turning me into more of an adult in the sense that I learn to accept some of the responsibilities of an adult and have a more realistic view of what the real world is all about.

I’ve always been sick and tired of people not taking me seriously. If I wanted to buy something at the mall, even if I was paying, the cashier would just hand the receipt to my mom like I’m not even alive. I should add that I hate that I can’t walk around the mall without my mom; it doesn’t really add to the whole “I am an adult now” effect.

But now I have a real job. I feel people take me seriously when I say that I’m a junior counselor. I deposit every penny I earn in the bank. I don’t want to splurge on something extravagant like an iPhone; that’s what the other junior counselor in my bunk said she’d do. I have to save all my money for the future, according to my mom. That means college debts or any other payments after I leave high school.

I agree with her — it’s a smart idea. It’s not just about the money, either. I enjoy having a schedule that’s not inconvenient. I still have time after camp to go home, change into a bathing suit and meet my friends at the pool. Being able to sink into the water is always refreshing after a hectic workday.

Though my kids are adorable, they are crazy, and I’m always so amazed at their endless amounts of energy. Swim is one of the activities where the counselors actually have a break. After sweating through gym class — due to the lack of air conditioning — we sweat some more in swim, but at least we get to do it sitting down. The counselors don’t swim with the campers. We hand the responsibility over to the lifeguards who only send campers back to us if they have to go to the bathroom.

During swim one day I sat with one girl on my lap when another came running over to me. After the lifeguard’s cry of “walk!” died down, I was able to hear her say that she had to use the bathroom. Sweating like crazy with a girl on my lap, I begged my co-counselor to take her. She reluctantly agreed and led the camper out.

A minute later, the counselor came running back to me yelling, “Oh my god, it’s poop, wipe her!” I look around for a minute and then it hits me that not only does she remind me of the 4-year-olds but that the girl isn’t with her. “You left the girl in the bathroom?” I ask unbelievably. She nods and gestures for me to run in there and wipe her. This counselor clearly doesn’t realize that the camper could most definitely fall in the toilet — my campers are that small.

“You can’t just leave her there!” I exclaim. “Run in there now, suck it up and wipe her!” Thankfully she didn’t argue. I realized that I needed to be more vigilant to make sure the incident didn’t happen again and be more cautious of the campers — to make sure they didn’t run on the slippery floor on the way to the bathroom and that they washed their hands properly.

This summer has been more interesting than I thought it would be, and I find myself dreading school more and more each day. I actually love being a junior counselor; the kids are cute, and my counselors and I get along really well.

Working makes me feel like I have a place in this world. I feel like I am contributing to something rather than just sitting at home watching TV. And even though I sometimes feel exhausted, get a headache from the heat or I am sick of bubble soap all over my clothes, it’s all worth it when I hear my kids asking to sit on my lap or running to me when I see them in the morning. It’s great to see them smile and enjoy themselves because then I smile too.Nike Tiempo Legend VI FG

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