Thousands of parents are descending to overnight camps this weekend to see their children on Visitor’s Day. As parents, we have all been in situations that no one warns us about, and one thing no one warned me about as a parent of an overnight camper was the ‘Running of the Parents’, which marks the start of Visiting Day at most overnight camps.
‘The Running of the Parents’ is when the camp opens their gate doors, at whatever time SHARP, and suddenly you, as a parent, MUST run towards hundreds of campers, while the campers run towards the parents. (‘Chariots of Fire’ anyone?)
Yes, this is how we are supposed to find our children. Yes, this is a ‘thing’ that is supposed to be fun! And when I mean parents run towards their children and the children run towards their parents, I mean the scene looks like a mosh pit at a Red Hot Chili Pepper concert. It’s pandemonium! But colourful pandemonium, thanks to all the summer clothes. In theory, this SHOULD be fun and it is for the campers, and in theory, I do think it should be fun. And I really want it to be.
But, like I said, the first time I experienced Visitor’s Day, no one mentioned this little tradition that dates back for decades. I mean, why didn’t anyone tell me? I had never heard or read anything about it. I felt like a complete idiot.
That first year, I was in the middle of a conversation with another camp mother, when suddenly, she just took off, mid-sentence, running towards the gate. I thought, ‘WTF?’ But then everyone else started running and I saw children running and I just stood there, in shock, wondering if someone had drugged my coffee, praying, ‘I just don’t want to be trampled.’ I was probably the only parent, that first year, who just kind of sauntered in, finally finding my daughter, who asked, ‘Did you run?’ I told her, ‘Um, no, because no one told me to!’
Now, the start of Visitor’s Day is a joke for my daughter and me. Why? Finding my daughter is an issue for me. I would be better at finding Waldo in a book than finding my daughter at the start of Visitor’s day.
For the following years on Visitor’s Day, I ran to find my daughter as soon as the gate opened, running as if a bear was chasing me. I think I may have even stretched beforehand for the short, but fast, run.
You’d think, because I know what my daughter looks like, I would find her easily. You’d think that somewhere inside of me, my motherly instinct would kick in, like a compass, and I would find her amongst the mass of other children. Nope. I did not. In fact, I have never once found my daughter during the Running of the Parents. Yes, I get very frustrated, swearing under my breath, and thinking, ‘Why don’t they just let us meet them in their cabin?’
Two years ago, it took us twenty minutes to find each other. Last year topped it off. I couldn’t find my daughter for almost 40 minutes. A counselor actually had to escort me, first to her cabin, then to the camp offices, then back to her cabin, then back to the camp offices, where I waited, until I got a call from her father, who managed to find her, asking me, ‘Where are you?’ to which I responded that I’ve been running around the camp, like a chicken with its head cut of, trying to find them. Thank you, cellphones!
Perhaps this year will be THE YEAR that this whole Running of the Parents actually works out for me and my daughter. Run Rebecca, Run!