Monday, August 15, 2011

Summer Camp Season - New Column Today

Preparing for summer camp can be a stressful experience. Getting to camp, putting all that preparation to good use, and actually leaving a child in the in the Wisconsin Northwoods with 150 other kids can take the stress to another level. My latest newspaper column tells how one family dealt with it this summer. Click here to see it on the newspaper's website.

The summer has nearly passed, and while no one is eager to see it go, our family is thankful we have successfully navigated summer camp season.

A child’s annual trip to summer camp begins weeks before departure and continues well after addresses are exchanged. Parents guide the pre-camp preparations. (Yes, really, you do need to pack underwear.) Parents tiptoe around the post-camp, down-off-the-mountain doldrums. (Why are you just lying there, staring, with your duffle bag as a pillow?)

Now, the at-camp part in the middle is nice. The peace. The quiet. The uninterrupted trips to the bathroom. Unless, of course, you enjoy sibling squabbles and brother-sister bickering.

So you got your before-camp (ugh!), your during-camp (ahhh...), and your after-camp (woe!). But the highest peak to scale for every week at summer camp is the time after leaving home and before arriving at camp.

The drive.

Especially when it’s the boy’s first time attending for a full week. Sure, there were some short father/son excursions and a couple weekends with friends, but for our youngest this was his first time away for a whole week. We spent three anxious hours in the van. Three hours fraught with worry, angst, and at times, raw panic. We heard it all, from homesickness to horrible, bloody death and digestion by wild animals.

“I miss you when we’re not together.”

“Maybe we should turn back. Maybe next year would be better for a whole week at camp. You know? Another year older, another year of experience.”

“There might be storms. Is camp safe when it storms?”

“What about the food? Do campers get enough food? Will it be good? What if it’s not good?”

“There are animals in the woods. Dangerous animals. Bears! And wolves! Bears and wolves eat people!”

“Who will tell me, ‘Goodnight,’ and ‘I love you,’ each night before bed?” Those are a lot of issues to deal with on one drive to camp, let alone the fact that we had already discussed most of them in the weeks prior. We’d been planning the boy’s trip to camp for months. How could we turn back now?

“We’ll only be apart for one week.”

“After all those weekends, anything less than a week would be a let down.”

“Camp has emergency plans in place for extreme weather.”

“No camper has ever starved at summer camp, and to the best of my knowledge, no camper has ever prevented a wild animal from starving.”

We repeated all the assurances previously shared in the days leading up to camp.

Results were mixed.

It wasn’t until we reminded her that husbands can say “Goodnight” and “I love you” just as well as little boys that Mom finally believed she’d make it through the week.

She let the boy stay.

And he loved every minute.

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