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Thread: By any standard of good parenting...

  1. #1

    Post By any standard of good parenting...

    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.
    Last edited by harris; 25-Jan-2009 at 00:58.

  2. #2

  3. #3


    I'm a junior counselor at a Summer camp, and I'm treated as a regular counselor, seeing as I'm old enough to be one next year, so I see where you're coming from.
    Yeah, parents like that disgust me. There was this one girl who had a urinary problem, and her parents didn't want any of us to change her. So at the end of the 8AM-6:45PM day, her pants were pretty much soaked, because they didn't even seem to buy her good enough diapers. I felt terrible, and brought it up with the Head Hancho, and she said that she wished there was something we could do, but there wasn't.
    I felt sorry for the girl, because none of the other kids wanted to friends with her, because she'd smell like urine all day, and they thought she was "weird" for wearing diapers. So I decided to be her buddy, myself. While the campers were busy with activities, I'd go over and do whatever activity we were doing with her.
    She seemed to have so much fun, and was always smiling when I was with her. I'd even bring her a pair of pants <which I stole from my 10 yro brother, who was a skinny little stick at the time> to change into for the day, and then put the other ones on when it was almost time to go. This worked for about 3 days, until the group counselor, my "trainer", persay, cought on, and said that if I kept bringing her pants, the parents would catch on, and they'd be in trouble.
    I was upset, but I stopped. I continued to be close with her, though. It was like having a little sister, which I've always wanted. She was having a good time, too.
    Then came the end of the summer. We cried and hugged when it was time for me to go (I had to leave a day early, because I had to go camping with the family) and she promised me that she'd be back next year (this upcoming summer) and that she promised to get even better.
    Man, just remembering and typing this up makes me cry, but here's my part.

  4. #4


    Mitsukuni, it's good to hear of something similar from another camp person. Like yourself, I was boxed in by the people whose job it was to see to the problem: the health staff, the admin staff, the managers back and HQ, and the parents. I wish I could go back to camp this summer, but, alas, it will not be. Have a blast!

  5. #5


    I was in boy scouts for about 10 years (beavers/cubs/scouts). The entire time I was a betwetter. Occasionally it was a problem, because sometimes I would wet more than my protection could handle, you know after a day of hiking drinking lots of water, but otherwise it was ok. My dad was the troop scouter/leader guy, so he made sure no one bugged me about it. It was cool, I was never left out because of it.

  6. #6


    Quote Originally Posted by Mitsukuni View Post
    This worked for about 3 days, until the group counselor, my "trainer", persay, cought on, and said that if I kept bringing her pants, the parents would catch on, and they'd be in trouble.
    Uggh, how could parents be so ignorant? If it's a bladder problem, shouldn't they have seen plenty of doctors for advice on how to manage it? Couldn't the camp just make sure that she has enough diapers to change into each day? And explain to the other kids that it's not something she can control. Her wearing diapers is no different than me wearing glasses because I'm nearsighted. And how would the parents catch on if you brought the girl pants? Was this a sleepaway camp or day only?
    I'm glad the girl had someone like you around.

  7. #7


    Experienced camp counselor here as well. Plenty of experience with campers who wet the bed, but their parents don't prepare them and don't tell us. One of the reasons I was told was that the parents don't want to embarrass their children by sending them to camp with Goodnites.


  8. #8


    I went to camp when I was 12 and our counselors told us that occasionally campers, even ones our age, would wet the bed, sometimes because of the added stress caused by homesickness (not to mention we were also instructed to drink 12 cups of water a day). They just said if it happened, for us to not be ashamed and to come tell them and they'd held us get a clean cot and wash our sheets. Far as I know, it didn't happen.

    In the case of parents who leave instructions like "don't let my kid change if she wets herself," since this could be considered child abuse, couldn't the camp at least tell the parents they weren't going to follow instructions and to take the kid home if they insisted on that being done, or reported the parents for abuse?

  9. #9


    They could have. The proper response, in my opinion, should have been that the camp would allow the child to change as frequently as needed, and if the parents had a problem with that, they could not send their kid to camp. They could have reported it as well. Complacency and the same idiocy that made the parents behave so irresponsibly was probably why they didn't.

  10. #10


    Mitsukuni, you are a good person. One thing I like about this site is that most of us are kind, gentle, and considerate to the feelings of others. Maybe it's because we too are imperfect in ways that impact on our integrating into society. I too have worked many summer camps as a church musician, and thus camp counselor by default. I never new of bed wetting at these camps, but I took a youth group to Lake Junaleska, a very famous Methodist camp in North Carolina. I over heard a bunch of boys talking about another boy in their cabin peeing the bed and stinking. Did I feel sorry for who ever that was. The boys were being extremely unkind. Obviously learning about the love and acceptance of Christ somehow escaped them that week.

    Harris, I so very much feel what you are saying. One does have to wonder why or how parents can be so cruel to their children. You have to wonder if some crackpot psychologist advised them to handle the situation with "tough love", and one must question the word "love"! I would never put any child of mine into that kind of situation. I wonder how they would have felt if the tables were turned. The chances are great that as we age and become old, we may one day become incontinent against our will, and strange and ill tempered orderlies may be abusing us in some hell hole nursing home. What comes around can go full circle.

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