Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Dear Mordechai,

I’m in sleepaway camp, and I’m completely out of clothes. What should I do?

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A Camper In Camp Your Reiach

 

Dear Camper,

Laundry.

Ha! Just kidding. You don’t know how to do laundry.

What you want to do is figure out how to get away with wearing bathing suits most of the day. After all, you wear them in the lake, and that’s where people used to do all their laundry in the olden days. They’re self-cleaning!

The good news is that Visiting Day is basically every two weeks, so assuming your parents sent you with a week’s worth of clothing, you shouldn’t have to do this for too long. Just hold on until then, and tell your parents that they need to bring up more clothes. And some kind of rash cream.

You can also quietly slide one or two things into each of the other kids’ laundry bags, and they’ll give them to you when they come across them. Everything’s labeled anyway. (Alternatively, you can stick all of your clothes into your counselor’s laundry bag.) Just make sure you’re the only one in the bunk doing this.

 

 

Dear Mordechai,

How do I get the kids in camp to actually pay attention during learning groups?

Learning Director, Camp Kol Turkey

 

Dear Learning,

That’s a good question. It doesn’t help that most of the rebbeim are clearly bochurim in ties.

It’s weird that we call it “learning groups” when, at most, one or two kids are learning. That’s not a group. It sounds more like we’re bending over backwards trying not to call it a “class.”

There are definitely things you can try. For example, schools get kids to pay attention by giving them tests once in a while. And there’s no reason you can’t do that, except that no one has a pen, there are no report cards anyway, and there’s no way the parents are schlepping up for conferences. Unless they have to bring up clothes anyway.

Of course, it could be that the kids aren’t learning specifically because there isn’t going to be a test. If that’s true, it’s the school that failed the kid, not the camp.

It happens to be that kids do know the importance of learning every day, but that’s also not why they’re there. Their idea is that they sit in the room, and the rebbe learns in front of the room, and he’s motzie everyone. Like a chazzan.

The most effective camp rebbeim, though, seem to be the ones who turn everything into a game. The challenge is that they have to be creative about the games, because playing Mishnayos baseball is not so exciting when the kids are playing actual baseball later.

 

 

Dear Mordechai,

What should I do in camp all day? I’m not a sports kid. I’m a sit-on-the-sidelines-and-write-letters-home-even-though-it’s-a-day-camp kid.

Camper, Camp S’dei Outside

 

Dear Camper,

I want to say that you should play sports because it’s good exercise, even if you don’t enjoy it. Because – speaking as an adult who goes to an exercise class – football is probably more exciting than counting your jumping jacks. And who cares if you win or lose?

The other kids. The other kids care if you win or lose. That’s why you don’t want to play. If you mess up, the other kids – who you thought were on your team – are going to yell at you.

And yes, I’m assuming here that you’re bad at the sport. You’re not sitting on the sidelines because you’re so good that you’ve outgrown it.

But there are other options. You could talk to the counselor and explain to him that it would definitely be better for the team if he didn’t make you play.

“Is that a threat?”

“No, it’s a fact. You think anyone’s this bad on purpose?”

Or you can convince him to put you in a position that doesn’t really affect the outcome of the game that much, such as right field. That way, even if the kids yell at you to, “Throw it! Throw it!!!” without telling you where, you can pretend you can’t hear them.

On the other hand, there’s a pretty good chance that your counselor doesn’t really love sports either, and now not only does he always have to play, he has to pitch. So you’re not getting any sympathy from him.

But sometimes it’s up to you. For example, if you play soccer, you can just make sure never to get close to the ball. There’s always going to be a clot of people around the ball, and your goal is to constantly chase the clot but never quite catch up to it. Occasionally, the ball will break free and come near you, because the ball has no more desire to play soccer than you do, and you can just kick it to someone else on your team who looks like he knows what he’s doing. Or kick it in a random direction off the field.

If you can, though, maybe just sit on the sidelines and play with the worst kid on the other team. Every team is legally required to have at least one kid who doesn’t like sports, because the camps try to divide the teams equally that way. If your team is playing another team, that team must have an alternate universe version of you. Just pray he’s not too weird.

Personally, I think there should be one team made up only of kids who are horrible at sports. A “small class,” if you will.

And this team would be very chilled. There would never be arguments about batting order or positions, no one would yell at each other for messing up (because they wouldn’t be paying attention), and there would never be a dispute with the other team about fouls or whatever, because this team would be like, “What’s a foul? Just give them the point.”

And when the other teams beat them – mostly in shutouts – these kids won’t care or necessarily even notice, and it will be a nice confidence booster for the other teams. So it’s more like having a small class that has to constantly compete against the regular classes in academic decathlons.

And if these kids do decide to actually try one day, no one will yell at them for messing up. The only yelling will come from the counselor, who will turn around on the pitching mound to find that his entire team is playing with ants. And half the kids are wearing knapsacks.

 

Dear Mordechai,

I run a mommy camp for my own kids, and the one activity that I think we are missing is color war. How do I have that with just a few kids?

Head Counselor, Camp Kol Your Mother

 

Dear Head,

I think you have it all the time anyway. Color war is about a war breaking out over something stupid, constant fighting and screaming going on for days, kids competing for your attention, and people being mad at each other because of what they’re wearing. I think it’s always color war in your house. The only difference is that in actual color war, you would walk around and award the kids points for these things, which, if not in the context of color war, is just horrible parenting.

Another difference is that they get to compete in doing things that you normally would yell at them for, like walking briskly while balancing an egg on a spoon, sticking their feet in a bowl of ice cubes, and wrapping each other in toilet paper. But if you weren’t actively doing mommy camp, they’d be doing these things anyway.

 

Have a question for “You’re Asking Me?” Great! But if I answer it correctly, I expect a freeze pop.

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