Come July and August, Polish kids are off school but their parents still have to work. Unless you have grandparents willing to harbour them, a common solution is to pack the kids off to activity camps. It’s like some sort of summer boarding schools but instead of maths, history or science, the young ones get to do “fun” stuffs for a week or two. Sailing, cycling, hiking, horse-riding, playing football, etc., are some of the specialty camps. There are also centers focussing on teaching language (namely English) or art. Some kids sign up to three different camps in one summer.
I enclosed fun in quotation marks because not all kids are thrilled by these fun factories. My son, for example, found his sailing camp to be too high speed. Alex was 8 years old then. On the phone, he said he was miserable and one of his schoolmates had already been bailed out by his parents. It wasn’t Alex’s first camp. A winter earlier, he survived a skiing camp with no complaints. Our hearts melted and we cut short our holiday in southern Poland (Szczawnica) to race 650km north to the vicinity of Węgorzewo. By the time we got there, he was a happy camper and said he could hack the full term of two weeks. My husband and I ate some good fish and made a two-some journey back to Warsaw.
Alex is now 12 going 13. This afternoon, I saw him off on the bus to his 2-week general activity camp in the Bieszczady (southern Poland). Last year, he went to the same camp. When he got there, he sent me a sms to say he missed me. Just now, I sent him a sms to say I miss him already.
Here are some tips for parents new at handing their young ones over to camp counsellors:
1 Do not call your kids in the evening. That’s when they are tired. So even if they had had a full day of fun, at dusk, they missed their comfy bed and nighttime routines and would bawl their hearts out on the phone. Call them during the day when they are having fun with the other pals, and a good, cheery report you’ll get.
2 Allow 2, 3 days for them to settle in before launching the rescue operation.