Band Camp? Maybe If It Had A/C

Ryan has a brutal upper respiratory infection. He’s lucky. Why? Because if he felt good, if his nose and throat and head and glands weren’t swollen and achy, he’d be at band camp. This is what band camp means: a full 8 4 p.m. day out in the blistering Florida sun. He’s no wuss, Ryan. He has spent much of his 14 years kicking soccer balls and hitting baseballs and shooting basketballs under our searing skies – not happily, perhaps, but effectively. It’s inhumanely hot and humid in the Sunshine State from May through September, so suffering through unbearable temperatures is a way of life, especially for an active kid.

Band camp must be worse, because as of yesterday afternoon three students had already fainted. Yup, lost consciousness and crumpled while learning how to march in creative formations while making beautiful music. These are high school teenagers, presumably hardy and healthy.

Isn’t something wrong here?

My friend Cathy and I snorted about this during a band camp informational meeting last week, childishly rolling our eyes as the parents in charge talked about the refreshment-slash-first-aid tent with its cold drinks and bug bite remedies. We hoped the speakers were exaggerating.

Ryan enjoyed band in middle school. He played his instruments with pride and got excited about select pieces of music chosen for concerts. I’m afraid band camp will turn him off from the French horn and mellophone. And in case you’re wondering: Marching band is mandatory for all high school band students in the county, and band camp – which starts an offensive three weeks before school opens for the term — is part of it.

I see this as representative of an overall trend of too much. My friend’s daughter enjoyed being a cheerleader but dropped out when the coach insisted she had to pretty much devote her life to it all year. Nearly every children's sport is too serious now. While some kids really take to, say, golf or lacrosse, others would like to play a different game each season. The leagues are so intense that that’s hard. After a certain age, you have to keep your skills up so you can retain respect. Take time out for a season of tennis? You'll lose your edge. What about having a little fun?

I wince every time Ryan moans. I empty bag after bag of used tissues. I feed him Advil and Sudafed and beg him to try a mugful of tea with honey. But in a way, I think he’s better off sofabound than at band camp. Of course, he'll have to start attending once he shakes this bug. Let's hope he doesn't drop out — or drop to the ground.