Once upon time, before I was locked into the ivory tower of academia, I made my living working summers at summer camps. I was always amazed by what some parents considered good parenting. But two incidents stuck out, and each one related to incontinence issues.
The first of these was a thirteen yro boy who suffered from nocturnal encropesis as well as enuresis. Obviously, I met this unfortunate boy at camp, where he lived in a room with ten other boys and two counselors. Luckily, both of those counselors were some of the best I ever met. The kid was on medication, but for those of you that have no experience with that kind of medication for that ailment, it's hit and miss, and mostly miss, when it comes to actually preventing voiding in one's sleep. I believe that summer camp offers an experience that is formative and life-changing. But not when a kid wakes up, surrounded by ten others and sitting in his own feces. I never understood why a parent would send their to camp with that ailment. There is a camp that specializes in bedwetting; it's called Camp Brandon. I don't know if they are still open; I haven't been very invovled in the camp community for a while. Has anyone else dealth with this issue at camp, as a parent, camper, or counselor?
Another case was an eleven year old girl whose parents sent her to the girl scout camp I was working at. At this camp, every camper lived in a tent with three other's sleeping on canvas cots. This girl had more than just a bedwetting problem; she wet herself every day, and frequently. I'm not sure she used the bathroom the entire time she was there. She was a sweet girl. Obviously, she had social problems, probably a cause, consequence, and cofactor of her wetting. Her parents gave the camp strict orders: when she wets, don't let her shower and don't let her chage her clothes. The only time her bedding and clothes were washed was when she didn't have anything clean to put on in the morning. She showered, as did everyone, once a day, but not necessarily in the evening or morning, so she was, as often as not, spending the day wet and going to bed in the same condition. I've met a lot of parents I didn't respect, a number I didn't like. These were some of the few that I took it personally, and you bet I wanted to kick their asses. I don't know if the wetting was caused by physical problems, psychologiclal problems that rendered the wetting involuntary, or psychological problems that left the wetting voluntary. I doubt her parents knew either, but I suspect that after the long time period during which this wetting had been ongoing, they probably assumed it was deliberate. But it shouldn't matter. Making a child physically uncomfortable, compromising her health, and trying to humiliate her into changing something she might not be responsible for is, in the definition of someone who has taught over a hundred camp counselors what child abuse is, abuse. This girl stayed at camp for over a month. I was loathe to follow that order. I later resigned; it wasn't a factor, but it was in the back of my mind what kind of organization (this particular camp, not the scouts generally) I had associated myself with. Has anybody else, as a camper, counselor, or otherwise been treated, administered, or observed such treatment?
A camp counselor is a dedicated child-care profesional. The best ones have done it for years, with dozens or hundred of kids, with hundreds of hours of training, selected from thousands of applicants, and with nothing more invested than "I want this child to be safe, to have fun, to grow through this experience" and by default they care about that child personally, because when you are given responsibility for another human being, when a parent hands you their child, you accept the duty to care for that child as though he or she was your own. By contrast, the standard of parenting, good and bad, is fertility. There are good parents; there are bad parents. To this counselor and camp-person, it is a wonder that kids do as well as they do, and surely it is to their credit.