Thursday, July 10, 2008

Erring on the Side of Caution

I had a disturbing incident this week -- I am not sure if I was being an alarmist, but I feel like I made the only decision I could.

I sent S to camp this week at one of the local parks. Camp ran from 9-12:30pm every day; parents were invited to join at noon during the kids' lunch time. So, on Monday I showed up at about 12:15 and the kids were eating lunch with the counselors. At that point, one of the counselors did a headcount and realized that they were missing a child. Another counselor said, "Oh yeah, I think his mom picked him up a while ago". It was a disturbing couple of minutes before the counselors sorted through the confusion and determined that the parent had picked up the child and signed him out. It was an okay outcome but, a little disconcerting to think that the counselors weren't as on top of it as they should have been. However, S had had fun that day and it seemed like a minor glitch, so I had no second thoughts about sending her back on Tuesday.

On Tuesday my mother-in-law went to go pick S up at lunchtime. As she was coming down the steps to the lower part of the park (this particular park is split into lower and upper levels), she saw a little girl walking down the steps all by herself with no one looking out for her. It turned out it was S. As best as she could determine (and what I could glean from S), the counselors led the kids up to the bathrooms to wash up before lunch, but no one was watching to make sure that the kids got back to the lower part of the park. As far as we could tell, there was no one watching from above to make sure she got down okay, nor was there anyone watching from below. That made me really uncomfortable. This is a particularly big park, and it's not possible to see the path from the bathrooms if you're in the back part of the lower park. S isn't even four years old yet, and I just don't want her going anywhere without a pair of eyes on her at all times.
So, the incident on Tuesday combined with the incident on Monday really sat poorly with me. The level of supervision that I am used to from her nursery school just wasn't there. In addition, S is one of the quieter kids. If an outgoing kid was missing, it would likely go noticed much more quickly than if my quiet kid was missing. I just felt "icky" about the whole thing.

Anyway, I decided not to send S back. I also called the woman in charge at our city RWC parks department and told her the entire story. To their credit, the counselors had already told her about the Monday incident. She was very receptive to my concerns about the Tuesday thing and promised that she would make the counselors aware. She was very cooperative and concerned, and I truly believe that she has discussed this with the counselors.

I still have mixed feelings about the camp. I still think they're a great program for kids. This is the first time in three years of using the our city's recreation services that I have had less than an excellent experience. I just think that perhaps my kid is too young for this kind of camp. Perhaps we'll try again when my girls are a little older. It's funny, but when I told a bunch of other moms about this, it turns out that several had similar experiences and decided the same thing: to postpone camps until at least five years old. I wish I had known this previously! The problem with raising first kids is that sometimes you just don't know what you don't know, and you don't know which questions to ask. Poor S is my guinea pig and even though I try to do right by her at all times, it's just unavoidable that at times I am going to make missteps. Hence the mother's guilt persists despite the best of intentions.

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