Summer Camp Blues

We just picked up our 11-year-old from 2 weeks of overnight camp and 2 weeks was not enough – for me not him. I know, that sounds horrible but having one kid in the house for a little while isn’t always a bad thing. It’s quiet – and as the mother of two very, very loud boys – quiet is rare in my home.

I used to tell my husband that his mother sent him to overnight camp because she didn’t love him. He would be gone for eight weeks (eight weeks!) every summer – how could a mother part with her son for that long, I would ask?

He would try to tell me that summer camp was the greatest experience of his life. He pushed for our oldest son to go but I wanted no part of it. No son or ours was going to be gone for that long until he went to college. And then, last year, our then 10-year-old asked to go to camp for a couple of weeks with his friend. It didn’t surprise me that he would be the one who wanted to leave. He’s had one foot out the door since he was three – but I was still shocked and sad. My baby wants to leave me!?

So, I agreed – begrudgingly. For weeks before he was scheduled to leave I cried. He, on the other hand, couldn’t wait to go. Until the night before his scheduled departure, when he turned to me and said, “I don’t want to go.” Very quietly, very sweetly. I was ready to scoop him up and flee. We could drive very far away and no one would find us until it was too late for him to go to camp! I would save him!

But instead of totally freaking him out by suddenly packing and running from our home, I told him that he would be fine and if he was really sad he could call me and I would come running to get him. It broke my heart. What kind of mother was I? I suppose if he had been sobbing uncontrollably I would have reacted a bit more like the psychotic mother I wanted to be, but he was stoic. And so he went.

I watched the bus pull away and choked back the tears. I waved at him and smiled a big smile until he was out of sight. Then I punched my husband in the arm and burst into tears. How could he have let me send our 10-year-old away? I wasn’t like his mother, I loved my kids.

Every day I scoured the camp website for photos of our son. When I didn’t see any during the first couple of days I was certain that he was cowering in a corner of his cabin sobbing, so I made my husband call the camp to check in. (I made him call because A, it was his fault that our son was gone and, B, I didn’t want to look like the crazy one).

Shortly after that phone call we received a video of him waterskiing and having the time of his life. I think we got two notes from him the entire time. I took that as a good sign – he was having too much fun to write. But what about me? How could he not miss me?!

What a difference a year makes.

Sure, I was a little teary at the bus drop off this year but I knew what he was getting into. Sure, I checked the web site for photos but as the days went by I settled into a very quiet little existence. First of all, having a 15-year-old in the house means that you have your mornings free – he doesn’t wake up before noon. Secondly, you can just leave and leave a note. (You can’t really leave your 11-year-old home alone although most people I know do). We could watch R-rated movies with our 15-year-old at night and go out for real dinners (our 11-year-old doesn’t always like food or sitting still). And, while I usually got upset that our 15-year-old walks around with ear buds in his ears all day or ignores me for hours at a time– now I relished the quiet. I could read books and no one talked to me and more importantly, I didn’t have to act as a referee.

And now he’s back.

Of course, I’m happy to have him back. He’s funny and sweet and energetic and I missed our chats. And, three days later, I have yet to break up a fight or raise my voice. So, maybe it was a good experience for everyone. Maybe my mother-in-law was on to something. Maybe next year I’ll send them both…

Originally posted on on July 21, 2011

One response to this post.

  1. […] from half-day of school to full-day of school (when, naturally, I cried). Every new stage, every new milestone in my children’s lives, has required an adjustment in our lives, a tweak in our schedules, a […]



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