Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Camp Msasani

“Desperate times call for drastic measures.”

Preschool ended last week. Little Scholars had an end of semester party, which meant Bodie was buzzing on a chocolate cake sugar high when I picked him up. He was running around manically hugging teachers and unwary kids, saying, as everyone else did, “have a great summer!” I doubt he really understood what this meant. Walking home from school, we passed a goat munching grass on the side of the road. “Have a great summer, goat”, yelled Bodie.

As we were leaving, I was handed his first report card. I had a flash of fear – I’m a dad now and I need to treat this report card with some gravity. In my mind, we needed to have a sit down and celebrate his strengths but also address some issues. We needed to have a man to, well, 2-year-old talk about how he was doing. I remember those talks vividly, and I’ll be damned if he isn’t going to have that same trembling fear at the end of each year also.

(This next paragraph is mostly, rather, entirely, for my mom). According to his report card, Bodie seemed to excel at preschool. In terms of Personal Development, “He is a well-behaved and polite student. He is very independent when playing and picking out the toys of his choice. He enjoys doing many tasks on his own such as finding his own shoes, getting his bag ready for snack time and picking out the color crayon that he would prefer.” (I’ve been working with him in the evenings on picking out crayons, so am glad to see that hard work rewarded.) Here is the room for improvement: “Although he rarely gets in trouble on his own accord, he sometimes gets influenced by the older boys (this trait is hereditary from Hillary’s side.) “When playing with blocks, he can stack 6-8 objects and expresses good eye-hand co-ordination especially while throwing or catching (all those long training afternoons in the backyard are paying off!). He enjoys dramatic play including make believe kitchen (from Grammy) and talking over the toy telephone (goes without saying). He has a wonderful sense of humor, and he “enjoys hugs.” “He is particularly concerned about the well being of the other students – wants to know why they are crying or lets the teacher know if anyone fell down” (I’ll own the compassion part). He shows well developed communication skills and uses them when wanting to express his feelings and thoughts (I’m guessing this one isn’t from me…) And critically, “he uses play dough properly and enjoys molding it”!

All in all, a pretty successful first stab venturing out into the world of critiquing. All that money we’ve chosen to stock away in his therapy fund instead of a college fund looks like it can accrue a little more interest.

It took a day for it to fully dawn on me. No school means, well, no school. So Bodie in the morning, Bodie at lunch, Bodie in the afternoon and Bodie in the evening. This is good, I told myself. I love him. I love spending time with him. He is funny and I get to spend all day with him. The entire, livelong day, every day… Argh!

A drastic measure was needed. I googled, but could find no sleep away summer camps for two year olds in East Africa. I needed another plan. Out of sheer panic, Camp Msasani is being launched as a place for 18-month to 3-year-old kids to congregate and play three mornings a week. Why, if one scrambling toddler is overwhelming, would I want to submit myself to a dozen? One word: reinforcements.

Most toddlers will come accompanied by a parent or nanny. I’ve hired a teacher from the preschool. I imagine that I’ll be able to sit and have a Bloody Mary and issue directives: “ok, you kids, I need you to clear these concrete blocks from the back yard now.”

Camp Msasani (the name of the peninsula where we live) kicks off next week with a dozen registrants, a teacher, a guy who plays African drums with kids, and a fresh stock of arts and crafts supplies. I am banking on the court system here being arduous and arcane, so any liability suits that may ensue will take years to catch up with us.

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