Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Going Camping

There are six words that Miss TigerBlog says that make her father cringe: "Do you want to play Monopoly?"

There are any number of combinations of six words that a 14-year-old girl can say to her dad that are way, way, way worse than those six, of course. Those would make TigerBlog do way more than simply cringe.

It's not that playing board games with MTB isn't fun. It's not that TB doesn't want to hang around with her, even if, as is the case with the average early-teenage girl, she treats everything her father says as the absolute dumbest thing anyone in the history of the world has ever said and is 10 times more likely to roll her eyes at her dad than she is to smile at him.

That likelihood goes way up, by the way, when one of her friends is around. There's some equation that can actually calculate that, TB assumes. Or probably at least an app. "My father is so embarrassing" or something like that. It has to be out there.

Oh, and speaking of phones, have you ever spent time around a group of early-teen girls? They all have phones, and they all are always on them. At all times. If TB is driving MTB and her friends someplace, he will glance at them every now and then and see that everyone of them is on a phone.

What makes this sort of frustrating to TB is that he can't always get MTB to respond to his text messages or answer the phone when he calls. It's not like she can use the excuse of "I wasn't on my phone," since they're all on them all the time.

Despite the standard teenage girl stuff, MTB is a great kid. She's funny. She's smart. She's hard-working. She's personable. She's tall. She has a lot of friends. She plays multiple sports (field hockey, lacrosse, basketball, track and field) and one musical instrument (the cello).

Her friend Sonali's dad is an engineering professor at TigerBlog's alma mater, and MTB has gone with her friend and her friend's dad to a bunch of seminars, classes and workshops designed to introduce kids to engineering. MTB is on the record as saying she wants to study engineering there when it comes time for college, prompting TB to explain to her that Princeton has a good engineering school too.

At her best MTB has perfect comedic timing, and she also has the perfect foil in her brother. If TB had to equate them with a famous comedy duo, he'd go with Bugs and Daffy.

So it's not that he doesn't want to hang out with her. It's that playing Monopoly, TigerBlog has decided, is horrifically boring.

TigerBlog played Monopoly as a kid and then didn't play at all for decades until for some reason MTB became engrossed with the game. If TB looked on her phone, then he'd find next to the "my father is embarrassing" app another app, the Monopoly one, which enables her to play on her phone.

On a funny note, there's also a dice roller app that MTB uses because her game box no longer has its own dice in it.

There are all kinds of problems with playing Monopoly.

First, everyone seems to play by different rules. Then there's the issue of game strategy, which TB has never figured out. Buy up every property? Pass on some to build monopolies? What if you never get any?

Mostly, the problem is that the game can last forever, even long after it becomes apparent that one player is going to roll over the other.

Anyway, TB always feels like he's letting his daughter down if he says no to Monopoly. He needs to get her into a different game, maybe a good card game. Or chess and checkers. Something that doesn't take hours and hours.

Actually, TigerBlog thinks there are societal parallels to Monopoly. It used to be a fun, family-oriented game, TB supposes, and the fact that it took a long time to play was its charm. These days, everyone is too impatient and too focused on other things - like phones - to put that kind of time into something as low-tech as a board game.

TigerBlog is wrestling with this one. He doesn't want to contribute to the decline of American society, but he also doesn't want to get dragged into playing Monopoly all the time.

He doesn't have to worry about it tonight. He told MTB that he would practice field hockey with her this evening.

MTB has been playing all summer for her club team, called Mystx. She has school tryouts coming up, and she will also be heading to two camps, the first of which starts tomorrow here at Princeton.

Even by the standards of the overscheduled world of today's youth, MTB had a busy week last week. It began Thursday when she played field hockey and lacrosse and continued with more field hockey Friday and then more lacrosse over the weekend.

MTB has one bag that she uses for both sports, and she is constantly taking field hockey sticks out and putting lacrosse sticks in. TB often wonders if it's easy to keep track of the rules and subtleties of each sport, especially as she bounces back and forth between them so much.

MTB loves going to camp here, as TigerBlog Jr. used to as well.

TigerBlog thinks it's great for kids to stay in the dorms here and be exposed to a basic sample of what to expect from living at a college, even at young ages.

Princeton University hosts 64 sessions of summer camps across 18 sports, bringing a few thousand kids to this campus each summer. Each week in prime camp season there are any number of different sports represented, and TB can hear boys basketball going on behind him while he looks out across the track as another group is doing something.

In a little while, other groups will emerge to walk to lunch.

The camp life here is great. There are some day camps, but most are overnight.  The kids get to sleep in the dorms. Eat in the dining halls. Play their sport all day and night. Eat pizza. Meet other kids from around the country and in some cases the world.

It's a great experience for the kids involved. It's why the programs are so successful.

Some, like the younger group of boys playing basketball, are introductory. Others, for the high school kids, are competitive.

Either way, they're a huge part of the campus fabric in the summer.

There are way worse things for kids to be doing with their time.

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