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Those hot summer days

Justin Tardiff | Tuesday, September 1, 2009

As the weather has been a frigid 60 to 70 degrees these past few days, I find myself facing the dismal comprehension that summer is finally over. The days of rest and relaxation have officially come to an end, and I am back here at school.

Not that I don’t enjoy my college days, because I do. I wouldn’t trade them for anything. But nothing can compare to the hot summer days I spent outside at the park.

This past summer, I worked as a counselor for a day camp at my local park department. My days at Elmwood Park consisted of entertaining 10 to 25 kids. We would play games, do crafts and run semi-organized sports.

I worked with a great guy, who I had a great time hanging out with. This guy was six-foot-seven. He was lean and athletic, and plays basketball on a scholarship at the local university. Though he was ridiculously tall, he was the nicest, most non-intimidating person on the planet.

I, on the other hand, am five-foot-four-inches tall. And for some reason the kids were scared of me. I had their full respect everyday. Not that I was mean to them; I never yelled at them, even if they did something very wrong. I never really even snapped at them that much. I simply asserted my authority, and even with my small stature, they accepted it.

Two days into the job we had our first fist fight. Luckily, I didn’t have to break this one up. This fight was over dodge ball, a game the kids adored and I hated. Every time we played, the kids went nuts. No matter how hard we tried, they wouldn’t listen to the rules, and eventually the game was banned.

Day three hosted another round of fighting. This time it was over four square. Apparently, if you are an 11-year-old boy, cheating is not tolerated.

As the weeks went on I faced many other difficulties. One boy decided that he didn’t like the restrooms because there were bugs in the toilet (keep in mind we are at a park!). So he proceeded to go to the bathroom on the sidewalk right outside of the bathroom instead. When I caught him in the act, I told him to go inside and go to the bathroom. He did, and continued to pee the whole way there.

We had one girl fight while at the park. This one didn’t consist of fists. It was simply a “so-and-so called me this” type of fight. It ended in a frank discussion about respect. A few days later, the girls causing the trouble left the park.

We had another kid who was a runaway. He often would do the craziest things. One day, he climbed all the way on top of the playground equipment. Now I don’t mean the legal way you are supposed to climb it. No, he climbed on the outside of the equipment, and was putting his life in danger. He was five. Later, he decided to leave the park, and ran to the road. My co-worker chased him for about half an hour. In the end we called his parents and he wasn’t allowed to come back anymore.

After my second summer at the park I have several fond memories. I remember the sweet summer breeze. I remember my kids at the park, and I remember all the magnificent stories that I now have to tell about my awesome kids at my park.