DIK didn't go to summer camp. There is no fault in that, it's just a matter of fact. As usual DIK is on board for everything in our life with the exception of changes to our house . . . . But, an adventure, his response is always when and where?!?! Ten years ago we sent Ian to camp with his friends. He liked his first year and loved his second year. Last year we sent Teddy to his first summer camp. He also liked his first year. I am about to drop him off for his second summer at camp. He is sooooooo excited. He asked me why he was so excited this year. I said, "It might be because you know what to expect, you know where everything is, you know the routine. New experiences are fun and they can be a blast, however (I kept rambling) there is this wonderful sense of comfort, when you know your way around and know what to expect." I am also dropping Murphy off at camp. This is her first year. She was once our shy, timid child. She was my child who held my hand at parties (the entire time), rarely looked up at people, spoke quietly and wasn't (still isn't) a big fan of crowds. I read books about raising introverted kids and followed some of the guidelines. The biggest one being, I let her velcro herself to me whenever. I never pushed her away to play with other kids. Or said, "Look at all the kids playing, why don't you join them." Now my little velcro baby is headed off to summer camp.
** I started this post on my way to take the kids to camp. I have since dropped both of them at camp.
I went to camp. One year I wanted to go to camp so badly. My mom was on the fence, but I begged and begged. I told my mom I would be so so so careful. I promised. I don't know how but I convinced my mom to call the camp and see if they would let me go. She called the camp director and explained my situation. I had broken my leg at the beginning of the summer. My leg required surgery and six weeks of a toe to hip plaster cast (do they even use plaster anymore?) I had recently graduated to my short cast, but was stuck on crutches for another month. I'm not sure how my mom pulled it off, but she convinced the camp director I would be safe. It was a beach camp and I promised I wouldn't go in the ocean. And my mom promised the camp director she would pick me up if there was a problem. I spent two weeks crutching around the beach. I loved every second. My summers were always packed with camps.
I think sending a child to over night camp is hard . . . . . WHAT IF SOMETHING HAPPENS? WHAT IF THEY GET SICK? WHAT IF THEY DON'T MAKE FRIENDS? WHAT IF? WHAT IF? Well, what if they have a blast? What if they have to manage their gear, clothes, etc without me? What if they make a bunch of new friends? What if they learn they can handle themselves all by themselves? What if they love the food? What if they try some new foods? This list could go on and on.
Along with all those camp-bonuses, summer camp is one of my parenting litmus tests. Can my kids handle it? Have we done enough in our household to allow our children to go spread their wings in a new place, with new people and go have a blast?
As we were driving to camp this year I finally heard all the stories about camp from last summer. I learned about Teddy's routine, he sang me a few songs, told me some new activities he was going to try. He talked for 40 minutes straight, Murphy and I did not say a word. When he got to camp all the counselors greeted him, "Welcome back bro, good to see you again Teddy, Yo Teddy-Man what's up." He felt like a celebrity, I could see it in his smile. We went into his cabin I was gently pushed back by the counselors as he and his new leaders dug through his bag pulling out his gear, making his bed and talking about his soccer jerseys. After standing there for 5 minutes staring at the ceiling, I realized it was time to part ways. I hugged him, he limp-arm hugged me back. I would see him 10 days later probably in the same clothes.
The next day Murphy and I drove for an hour and half to her camp. It was a girls road trip. We ate candy, danced, screamed when we saw something crazy and every now and again I would ask her if she had questions about camp. She always said, "NO" with a huge smile. Finally we arrived at camp, her bag was unloaded for us and taken to her cabin. We parked, did the health check and went to her cabin. The packing list suggested family photos, she said she didn't want any. I ignored her request and printed a few out. She was thrilled. We unpacked her stuff and then her counselor suggested we check out the lake. We headed that way, she stopped and said she wanted to hang out with the kids. We turned around and went back to her cabin, she said goodbye and was dragged away by three girls to play some game called Gumchu Gumchu. I had to grab her arm and reel her in to get another limp-arm hug. And she was off.
I know she was nervous. And even though Teddy was excited, he was a tiny bit nervous too. They are OK. They are as safe as all the other kids at camp. They are very lucky to have these new experiences. Life is all about new experiences. High School, college, internships, jobs, marriage, children, trips, health issues will all be new experiences and they will all be different. But that nervous feeling they get of the unknown will not be one of fear for our kids, it will be a feeling of . . . what exciting stuff is going to happen?