What did you do on your summer vacation? Before we’re all too entrenched in the new school year, allow me to regale you with a harrowing tale. A tale of childhood. A tale of fun. A tale of absentmindedness and excuses and going commando. And a tale of a very, very frustrated dad.
Last summer my son attended a daytime summer camp and had an amazing time. I’ve never been much of a summer (or any type of) camper. I was/am too uptight to deal with nature or filth or a lack of personal space for long periods of time. But my kid is almost exactly the opposite. Which meant he squeezed the fun out of every moment of camp, but tended to not sweat many any of the details. Which also meant day-after-day-after-day of his shit being left behind at camp.
It boggled my mind, pushed all my Angry Dad buttons, and eventually became comically surreal. Nearly every parent I told said their kid was exactly the same, so I swore that the next summer I would document it somehow. There was some cathartic, empathetic humor to be mined.
Yet as this past school year wound down and quickly burst into summer, I found myself rushing around preparing for camp and completely forgot about my idea. It wasn’t until the first afternoon of pick-up that I remembered; when I opened my son’s backpack to put away his wet clothes and found none. On. Day. One.
WEEK 1: DAY 1
On that first morning, I put a note in my son’s backpack listing its contents, so that he’d remember what to bring home. I guess I should have also listed the shorts, socks, and underwear he was wearing at the time. (Note: He came home in his swimsuit, in case you were wondering if this was a clothing-optional camp.)
The next morning I added the clothes he was wearing to the list, and tucked it back into his pack. Day 2 was a success! Not a single item lost. I felt like the Best Dad Ever. Maybe I wouldn’t have to do any more doodles?!?
WEEK 1: DAY 3
Jon went one day without losing anything, so I saw a ray of hope. I should have known better. Day 3 of the first week of summer camp, and we were now also minus a pair of sunglasses and a pair of goggles. Luckily they were cheap, and I had stocked up on several pairs of each. I got this.
WEEK 1: DAY 5
I don’t got this. The first week of camp ended with a bang… and a REALLY empty backpack. For today’s loss report, I incorporated a labeling system in order to explain the unholy number of things that didn’t make it home.
A. One Minecraft lunchbox.
B. Unknown contents of said lunchbox — very likely, uneaten apple slices and a yogurt drink. At least it’s not sitting in an outdoor lost and found for an entire weekend in 95 degree heat. Oh wait…
C. Backup pair of goggles (see Week 1: Day 3 post)… minus one lens. THERE WAS A SINGLE GOGGLE LENS IN MY SON’S BACKPACK. 🤷♂️
D. A single black sock… and once again, his shorts and underwear.🤦♂️ Daddy needs a drink. 🍸
WEEK 2: DAY 1
We kicked off week 2 of camp minus one pair of socks and one sunglasses lens.
So now we have a single goggle lens minus the goggles (see Week 1: Day 5), and a pair of sunglasses minus a single lens. My kid has made losing shit an art form.
WEEK 2: DAY 2
Due to the loss of his Minecraft lunchbox (see Week 1: Day 5), I sent my son’s lunch in a customized tote sent to me by General Mills. It was a nifty red plaid with my blog’s name embroidered on it, an insulated interior, and a zipper at the top.
Last summer I visited camp on Parents’ Day and found his then two lost lunchboxes covered in dirt, lying in the middle of a soccer field. I feared my nifty plaid Designer Daddy tote had met a similarly grisly fate.
Total amount of shit lost the first two weeks of summer camp:
• 2.25 pairs of sunglasses
• 2.75 pairs of goggles
• 2 lunchboxes
• 7 socks
• 2 pairs of shorts
• 2 pairs of underwear
New rules for next week:
• brown bag lunches
• Crocs (without socks)
• wear swim trunks all day
WEEK 3: DAY 3
Over a week without anything to report! …But it’s not because my kid got his act together. It’s because he wasn’t at camp. 😭
FYI, that’s a beach towel in the illustration, not giant money. Though it might as well be money. If the Minecraft lunchbox looks familiar, it should. It’s the same one he lost the first week of camp. He found it, but then like a dummy I sent it back into the abyss. Didn’t I vow to send only brown bag lunches? New rule: just because we have a lunchbox doesn’t mean it’s leaving the house.
WEEK 3: DAY 5
Week 3 status update:
The good news: we wrapped up week three with both lunchboxes found! 😁
The bad news: that still leaves 3 pairs of shorts, 7 socks, 2.25 goggles, 2.75 sunglasses, and 3… no wait, 4 pairs of underwear still missing. 😭
WEEK 4: DAY 4
Yes, I broke my Crocs only rule. But it was raining that morning so I sent him to camp in sneakers and socks. I can live with one less pair of socks.
While we went almost a full week, I’m scared to celebrate this slowing trickle of lost items. I fear the universe will retaliate and my son will come back from camp stark naked and carrying someone else’s backpack.
WEEK 5: DAY 1
As we started the final week of summer camp, I reminded my son to try and remember all his stuff. It was an inspiration and well-intentioned end-of-summer pep talk. But alas, ’twas also in vain.
No towel, no short, no undies. No shit.
WEEK 5: DAY 3
I’m running out of ways to be funny about this. I guess I could applaud his commitment to losing his shit, as evidenced by losing TWO PAIRS OF SUNGLASSES IN ONE DAY. 👏👏👏😭😭😭
WEEK 5: DAY 5
It was the last day of camp. The night before I had a moment of inspiration. I made an exhaustive list of everything still missing. I even put little check boxes next to each item.
During breakfast the next morning, I gave Jon the list. I instructed him that as soon as he got to camp, he was to go directly to the lost and found with this list. He was to ask a counselor to help him look for the items on the list. I was past trying to teach him to be responsible, I was desperate.
Seems like my expectations were a little through-the-roof, yes? I also made him a proposition. For every item he brought home, I would give him a dollar. That’s right, I was bribing my kid. I was willing to reward my son for correcting his own mistakes. I was willing to risk him seeing this as a future money-making opportunity. But I was damned if I was going to let this summer swallow every ounce of my sanity, as well as all that crap on the list.
At pick up that afternoon, I tried not to be too excited. I wanted to show interest in my son’s day without immediately asking if he’d found his stuff — so I needed to be cool. I felt like I’d played the lottery and was super hyped to check my numbers, but I didn’t want to seem like too much of a noob and jinx it. Would he get any of the shorts back (the things I wanted the most)? Some of the sunglasses? A pair of socks? ONE sock?!? I’d have been happy with anything, but was secretly hoping for a huge haul.
Yet as I took his backpack off his shoulders to place in the front seat, I felt how depressingly light it was. As we settled in and pulled out of the parking spot, I nonchalantly asked how camp was.
“GREAT!” he cheered.
That was all cool I could be. “So, how much money do I owe you?!?” I asked with glee.
“Well, I didn’t find anything…” he answered timidly, (rightfully) fearful of my response.
“Did you even make it to the lost and found?”
He paused. “…no.”
“Well, I kind of got… distracted.”
“DISTRACTED?” A bit of hysteria crept into my voice. “By what?!”
My son then proceeded to share about his day, of how he’d had such a blast with his pal Alex, and how he’d conquered his fear and rode the giant, suspended swing, and how he’d done the zip line one last time… It was all wonderfulness and bravery and sunshine, and I didn’t have the heart to pester him about the money again.
He’d had a great last day, topping off a great summer. And while he’d lost a whole HEAP of sh*t at summer camp, he’d gained quite a bit, too.
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The list and graphics originally appeared in my Instagram feed and stories. Follow along for more family shenanigans @DesignerDaddy!