Spy Camp Day #1:

did NOT meet with Charlie’s high expectations. Here’s why:

1. Way too many girls. (What’s wrong with girls? Girls make great spies!)

2. Too many nerds. “Some kid asked me to play Elf Quest Trivia with him during the snack break. Spies don’t play Elf Quest Trivia, which I’ve never heard of, by the way. This camp is full of nerds.” (I refrained from commenting on how some folks might think that spy camp is slightly nerdy. Instead, I “thought” this comment to myself…loudly.)

2. No one understood the Russian name angle. (I could have guessed that that would be the case. But now Charlie has deemed this particular spy group, the Baby Spies. “They know nothing,” he complained. “They’re all amateurs, including the counseling crew — all girls. You have to at least have some boy counselors in a spy camp. Everyone knows that.”)

3. If the spy camp is being held at the Montalvo Estates in Saratoga, then the spies should have the run of the place to do their scavenging and spying. (I pointed out how many of the estate buildings are probably off-limits because of artifacts inside. Charlie’s response was, “Yep, this is a camp for babies. They could have made an amazing trail of clues in the castle-house, Mom. Instead, we could only go into the gardens OUTSIDE the castle. Completely boring! I repeat, for babies!”)

4. “Look for anything green” was the instruction, Charlie told me, for one of the spy hunts conducted by his particular female group leader. “Which was sooo stupid,” he reported, “because we were in a garden. Of course everything in the garden is GREEN. Stupid!” (I have to admit, I think I might agree with Charlie on this last point, but since I wasn’t there myself, to hear these spy hunt instructions in context, I really have no way of knowing how much Charlie might be exaggerating. In fact, it’s quite likely that Charlie’s overall critique of the entire program (on day one, for God sake) is one huge exaggeration. I’m not looking forward to the drive to camp tomorrow morning, when I’m likely to hear this entire critique repeated…verbatim.)

5. The spy camp should have been more like a boy scout style spy camp — with weapons, fires, tents, hikes, true scavenging and no girls. Here we are…at the point where many of our summer camp discussions end up…Charlie’s strong desire to attend a “real” boy scout summer camp.

(I have always had an issue with Boy Scouts of America — their exclusiveness, their statements/attitudes/actions towards gay people, their general philosophy about not allowing all kinds of people to scout, lead scouts or explore the great outdoors…together…no matter the sexual orientation of anyone involved. I’ve carefully explained my feelings and beliefs about this to Charlie. Scott has given his full support of my argument and has tried himself (on multiple occasions) to explain our stance. Today, as I start in with my usual “No Boy Scouts and Here’s Why” speech, Charlie stops me before I’ve said two words. “If the boy scouts are so bad, then you and Dad will just have to take me camping….with a tent…and a camp fire….and a scavenger hunt.”)

I sigh. This is going to be one long week of Spy Camp…for all involved. What’s more, there’s probably a family camping adventure in my near future. This is not a vision I enjoy. Yet, I see no alternative if I am to hold onto my convictions about the boy scouts and at the same time provide my child with a taste (at least) of the adventure and camping drama he so clearly craves. For now, I’m just going to have to hope that we can make the spy camp scenario work this week. And, in the future, I’m going to start thinking about a “mild” camping adventure. Is there such a scenario? Maybe there could be a cabin, instead of a tent. Maybe I could find a place with a camping site that already has a fire pit created so you don’t have to build your own campfire from scratch. Maybe I can make up for the loss (in Charlie’s eyes) of the “authentic” boy scout experience by designing the best damn spy/scavenger hunt that “Vladimir,” my eight-year-old Russian-Spy-kid, has ever seen. I think I can do this. I think I might even be able to get Scott signed onto the idea, even if for just one night.

What’s the worst that could happen?

(Rattlesnakes.)

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