*cue campy soap opera music here*
Setting: Knee Path Day Camp (KPDC) - 27 gorgeous acres of fun in the sun!
Cast of characters:
Noah - our adorable six year old and lead character. Must have impish grin, be missing both top front teeth, have big brown eyes and lashes to die for. Must have enough energy to power a small city indefinitely with occasional impulse control and aggressive tendencies. Occasionally known to bite (note missing top front teeth).
M - Noah's Therapeutic Staff Support (TSS). His "one on one" charged with heading off his misbehavior and redirecting his energy so he uses his powers for good, not evil.
P - Noah's Behavior Specialist Consultant (BSC). Supervisor of M. Determines Noah's treatment plan. General go to gal to help deal with any and all problems dealing with agencies, insurance companies, camp, etc.
S - senior counselor of Noah's bunk, the Lions
E - head counselor for preschool thru 1st grade, supervisor of S
D - Program director at Knee Path Day Camp
T - senior counselor of the Panthers, Noah's new bunk
Announcer: When last we left you Noah was set to start summer camp at Knee Path Day Camp after a long battle fighting insurance companies and agencies to receive TSS hours.
Camp day 1 (Monday): Noah is so excited! We visited the camp the day before and met S, his counselor. He had a chance to play on one of the playgrounds and couldn't wait to come back. I dropped him off in the morning with his swimsuit on, full backpack and a big smile on his face. Mid afternoon I texted M, his TSS and asked how things were going and she said great. Yeah! A huge relief!
Camp day 2 (Tuesday): Still having fun and excited to go! At pickup though M is starting to express some concerns about how things are going. She says things are pretty unorganized and the counselors aren't exactly welcoming her. Also, Noah is already being targeted as "the problem child" so if something happens that he is involved in he is getting in trouble without them trying to find out what happened. The camp seems unsure what M's role is supposed to be and M feels like they are expecting her to act as Noah's personal counselor, which she isn't.
M tells me that there are other kids in the group that have problems, and one in particular is getting in Noah's face quite a bit. The counselors aren't stepping in to redirect the other child and M is feeling a bit unsure how to react, because it isn't her job to work with the other kids and she is afraid of overstepping her role.
M tells me that in the afternoon S gave her assistant counselor and the CIT's the information sheets on all the kids in the group to review. Day 2 and this is the first time they are actually talking about the kids and seeing their information. Way to work as a team guys!
Camp day 3 (Wednesday): Kiel's had a cold all week and I wake up not feeling well. I worked half a day and came home about 1pm to sleep for a few hours.
2pm the phone rings and it is M to tell me that Noah bit the kid she was telling me about on day 2. Noah was going down the slide (a tunnel slide) on the play ground and the other kid was crawling up the slide. He tried to stop Noah from going down the slide and grabbed his head/hair and pushed it against the slide wall, so Noah bit him. There was blood, and freaking out, and lots of finger pointing at Noah and M. M stuck up for Noah and insisted they find out the full story. S wanted to know why M wasn't on the slide with Noah (Hello! That's not her job! Why wasn't anyone stopping the other kid from climbing up the slide?) and says that if he does that again he'll be kicked out of camp. It's becoming clear to me via M that the lack of structure and organization in this group is continuing. I think at this point M had some uncomfortable words with the supervisor of the counselors, E.
3pm E calls me to introduce herself and let me know what happened. She expresses concern about Noah's behavior and M's role at camp. She does say though that the child Noah bit has been a behavior problem as well and they recognize Noah isn't the only one at fault, but, because it's biting, it is very serious. I ask if they would like to have a team meeting to make sure everyone is on the same page about M's role there and how best to handle Noah. E says that its difficult to find time for something like that and she doesn't really think its necessary. I expressed some concern that M felt there was a lack of structure and consistency and E says that they can't have a TSS coming in and telling their staff how to do their job. I left it at that because I really didn't want to make any waves and have a huge fear that Noah will be kicked out.
Camp day 4 (Thursday): Noah has a great day according to M. M says she spoke with S and with E and smoothed everything out. She feels more comfortable and I'm not worrying as much. Noah is having a great time and is actually talking about camp and what he is doing there. He rarely did that with school.
Camp day 5 (Friday): Rich has been away since the day before and I am home with Kiel. His cold is worse and his eyes are all goopy so I take him to the doctor. Double ear infection and pink eye. Guess who else has pink eye? So nice of Kiel to share with me.
12:30pm the phone rings. It's E.. There are problems, but not so much with Noah as with M. But, parents have started to complain about Noah, including the father of the child he bit. And M isn't fulfilling the role they think she should be. They don't feel she is being proactive enough and preventing Noah from doing things. According to them M is being very defensive and not doing what they ask, continually saying "that's not my job."
I'm perplexed. This doesn't sound at all like M. I tell E that we think very highly of M and that she's by far the best TSS we have ever had. E says that camp is different than school and so are the expectations. E wants to know how to reach P. I give them her number and then text P to warn her.
Thirty minutes later P calls me to tell me the camp wants a meeting with her and M and they need M to be more on top of Noah, which P explains is not really what M is there for. The camp basically rejects the idea that M is there to help teach them to deal with Noah, and want M to just deal with him herself.
I end the call with P and immediately the phone rings and it is E. She and the directors have talked and they feel it would be a good idea to move Noah to a different group. This group is slightly smaller and doesn't have any "problem" kids in it and has male counselors. They think everyone needs a fresh start. I said go for it. E says they are going to talk with M and try and get everyone on the same page.
Thirty minutes later E calls again to tell me they spoke with M and it did not go well. She says that M was very defensive and kept saying "that's not my job," "you guys are ganging up on me," and "I don't feel safe." E says she got so frustrated she had to walk out of the meeting.
Frankly, I'm shocked to hear this about M and it makes no sense to me. This is not what I have experienced at all. I trust M and have no experience to base any trust on with the camp staff. Yet, when I talk to the staff they sound very reasonable and like they want to work with Noah and have him there for the summer.
E says that they think it is best that M not be at camp until they are able to have a meeting with her and P to clearly define her role. They suggest that Noah go to camp on Monday without M, join his new group and spend the next 2 1/2 days without a TSS since we can't all meet until Wednesday.
I tell them I think they are a little crazy, but if that's what they want to do go for it. Just know what they might be getting in to. And that if they can't work things out with M I don't think I can find another TSS for him to cover the hours, so they need to know the risk. They continue to say M is being defensive and unreasonable.
I also spoke with the program director D who sounds incredibly nice and expresses that they want to work this out, but M clearly can't do it until P is there. He also makes it clear that they want this to work out for Noah and he hopes that the meeting Wednesday can make M comfortable and put them all on the same team.
P and I text and email a few times and agree we are both a bit confused.
I get to camp at 5pm to pick up Noah and am a little (pleasantly) surprised to see M is still there. I had assumed they were going to tell her to leave for the day. I guess she said she wouldn't leave, but they wouldn't let her back with Noah. She told me she had been separated from him for most of the day.
Apparently the problem started that morning when one of the fathers of a kid in Noah's group came up to Noah during the regular drop off time and started talking to him about bullying his son and how he better stop. I'm a little unclear as to what exactly was said, but I guess Noah knocked over this kids water bottle on the first day (I'm still not sure if it was an accident) and then said he was going to do it every day. So M saw the father approach Noah and told the counselor that was sitting there that that shouldn't be happening. The counselor didn't know what to do so he went out to get another counselor. M didn't feel it was her position to intervene with another child's parent but she also knew this guy shouldn't be talking to Noah. By the time a counselor came in to handle it I guess the dad was gone. I'm still kind of unclear on what exactly happened.
So this seemed to set off a chain reaction of events which involved M being in tears several times, lots of finger pointing by S at Noah, the counselors in general not interacting with him, and S whispering with E several times. M called P at this point because she didn't know what to do, and then got in trouble because she wasn't supposed to be on the phone and that she wasn't watching Noah.
I'm beyond confused at this point. M is telling me things, which I have no reason not to believe, and I'm getting frustrated that this camp is basically not wanting to interact with my son. That I'm paying for him to go, and providing him with full time support, so they just feel they are supplying the grounds. Yet, talking with E and D they made it sound like they want Noah to be successful there.
I get home and email P, who then calls me and we agree that it must be somewhere in the middle of what camp is saying and what M is saying. We are both surprised by what they are saying M is doing/saying, but it has to stem from something. We agree that a new group for Noah is a good idea and have hope that this will work out for everyone. We also think they are a little crazy for wanting to try Noah without a TSS but figure they must know what they are getting themselves in to. I kind of feel that E and D have both verbally committed to keeping Noah there for the summer, even if M doesn't work out.
I really feel bad for M. She's a single mother working on her bachelors degree. She is very committed to Noah and is very much his advocate. She's not going to let herself get pushed around and she isn't going to let that happen to Noah either. I know her intentions are good and I hate that this is going on, for her sake and for Noah's sake. I don't want her to hate coming to work every day, but I also don't want to risk Noah not having her there.
Saturday: Ironically we have a family picnic at the camp for our karate classes. Noah is excited to show us everything and I'm a bit nervous because I know it is inevitable that we will run in to the camp owner. We do, and we talk for a few minutes and I thank him for working with us. Rich and I both express surprise that this is going on with M. We all agree that we hope the meeting on Wednesday smooths everything out.
Later that afternoon Noah's new counselor T calls and we have a good talk. I feel good about him and that he will be consistent and fair with Noah.
Announcer: stay tuned as we begin week two at KPDC. Will M and E resolve their differences? Will T be the answer to our senior counselor prayers? Will Noah keep his mouth shut and his teeth off the other children? Will Mommy keep her sanity or delve deeper into the wine cellar?