When Your Kids' Camp Doesn't Take Sunscreen Seriously

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I've put up with sarcasm from people my daughter's entire life over my fastidiousness about her sunscreen use. When she was a baby, people would chortle at her sun tent (you're really not supposed to put sunscreen on a baby -- you're supposed to keep her out of the sun). As she got older, teachers and daycare providers would look at me quizzically when I reiterated how often I wanted her to have sunscreen applied. I've even heard the teachers at her summer camp say things like, "Yes, Rita, we KNOW about your daughter and her sunscreen." I'm not fond of being made fun of to my face, but I was willing to overlook it as long as nothing bad happened. Then came yesterday, and I hit my boiling point.

After I went outside and beat the earth with a plastic baseball bat, I came back in and sat down the only person in the situation who I think was actually taking me seriously (well, besides my husband): Little Miss Sunburn. I told her about a family friend who has really severe food allergies and how he knows what to do if he has a reaction, even though he's younger than she is. I told her some kids have sensitivities, and adults don't always take them seriously. And then I told her I wanted her to assume her teachers had no idea how badly sunburned she could get and to ask them to help her stay sunburn-free by reminding her to put on her sunscreen and watching to make sure it was evenly applied.

Should an eight-year-old have to beg the adults her parents pay to watch her to take care of her properly? Hell, no. But I don't trust anyone anymore. I've been through this not-taking-sunscreen-seriously stuff with almost every school and daycare we've encountered, because it's true -- most kids do not have skin you can see through. Most kids do not match a white tank top. But my kid is not most kids and listen up, world -- TAKE ME SERIOUSLY when I tell you that.

Thank God someone's common sense kicked in by 2 pm after two hours of sun exposure with apparently no reapplication and put zinc oxide on her face and a t-shirt on her back. If she was burned that badly after just two hours, think of what could've happened if this slipshod procedure were used for six?

My husband and I intend to keep talking to the camp until they have showed us a revised written policy to ensure no kid ends up boiled like a lobster after what was supposed to be a fun summer outing. I won't apologize for working. I won't apologize for using childcare. But I will insist on the people who aren't parenting my daughter to act like adults with brains in their heads when it comes to her safety and to admit it without getting defensive when they screw up. We all screw up. Learn from it. Apologize for it. And use your head better next time.

Rita Arens authors Surrender, Dorothy and is the editor of the award-winning parenting anthology Sleep is for the Weak. She is the senior editor for BlogHer.com.


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