Yesterday I took my girlie off to camp. She earned a boatload of cookie credits which paid part of her way to the Girl Scout camp of her choice. It's got a crafting theme, which is perfect for her. They will also do all the usual camp stuff though: swimming, hiking, archery. And since this is Girl Scout camp (Go Green!) there is also environmental education. She discreetly rolled her eyes at that one (where did she learn that?); she knew enough to be sure I was the only one who could see and I know she will be polite and respectful as she is reminded one more time to recycle.
There were so many things I wanted to talk to her about on our 90-minute drive. Things she probably already knows but that I wanted to be sure about. She is a well-socialized child, and this is not her first camp. But she was 7, I think, when she went to camp before. Things are different in the tween set.
Of course we talked about being polite and nice to everyone. Respecting the leaders. And not going off alone with anyone, neither fellow camper nor leader. That's easy stuff. She knows that. She's 11, for crying out loud!
But then there are the more subtle points. I never went to camp but I remember some bad moments in junior high. I talked to her about shy, lonely girls who might grab on to any other girl who is nice to them, and about how some girls may try to manipulate others to do what they want. Don't let someone become your "best friend." Don't feel you have to spend all your time with one person. Be nice, I said, but don't do something you really don't want to do just because someone else wants it.
"So, you mean, if there's a choice between, say, fishing and canoeing, and I want to canoe, but some girl really really wants me to go fishing with her, I should stick with canoeing?"
Yes, exactly. And don't exclude anyone; if some girls are spending free time doing something, make sure everyone is invited to join in. Most likely not everyone will want to. But don't be exclusive and don't be sneaky.
Don't be a mean girl, in other words.
On our tour something else came up. She saw her cabin and the ten bunks. She was a bit disappointed as she thought they were sleeping in tents. But the cabin is very cool - I'd like to stay there - and she quickly shook it off. And she said "I sure hope I get a top bunk." As I opened my mouth to respond, she said "I know, I know - let other people pick first."
Well, no, not exactly. Yes, we are supposed to put others before us. But, come on. I told her that she must not push in front of others to get the bunk of her choice, or jump up and down yelling "I want a top bunk! I want a top bunk!" But if she is asked her preference, she can and should say "I'd like a top bunk." She doesn't have to put herself at the back of the line, and she doesn't have to say "I don't care" or not express a preference.
(I have to say that people who won't express a preference, ever, really get on my nerves. When I have guests I often offer coffee or tea after dinner. I have both. I can make both; they are equally easy to make. I would not offer both if I was not prepared to serve both, or either. But the simple question of "coffee or tea?" causes some people much anxiety. "Whatever's easiest" or "I have no preference" doesn't help me. I'm offering you a choice, make your choice, please, or take nothing!)
So she should express her preference. Of course bunks are not like coffee or tea; there is one bunk per girl and it might work out that she simply can't get what she prefers. And if that happens she is not to sulk or complain. Or hate the girl who got the last top bunk.
But I didn't lecture her about Silly Bandz. I didn't think of them till I saw them in the camp Trading Post. We don't do Silly Bandz; we think they are beyond silly. But if I'd had the chance, I'd have told her that if everyone has Silly Bandz and she is the only one not trading them, to use some of her spending money to get some if she wants. I won't mock her for that. Jumping into a harmless and inexpensive fad for a short time in order to fit in and have more fun would be OK.
Now, if the fad of the camp was goth makeup and black fingernail polish...