Monday, April 14, 2008

The Most Dreaded Event

And he's off. Every year the 5th graders at my children's elementary school go to overnight camp in the spring. My son, a 5th grader this year, has been dreading this since Kindergarten. Every year on off-to-camp day as we arrived at school and saw the excited 5th graders milling around the sidewalks, their piles of luggage waiting to be loaded into parent vans, my son would take one look and say "I'm not going to go to camp." And every year I'd cheerfully reply "Oh, that's five years away...four years away...three years away...two years away...not until next year." Well, we've run out of years. Today is the day.

Yesterday as we packed, my son was in denial. As I labeled his clothes and shoes, checking things off the camp check-list, he literally curled up in a ball in the corner of his bedroom.

Me: "Which of these sweathshirts do you want to take?"
Son (muffled cry from fetal position): "I'm not going!"
Me: "Let's pretend you're going. IF you were going to camp, which sweatshirt would you want to have there?"
Son (still muffled): "The red one."

And so on.

My son is a homebody. He loves to be home with his cats and his Lego. He likes to sleep in his own bed. He is not eager to try new things. He takes the path of least resistance. He is very much like me! I completely understand his fears and his preference to stay "safe." When he doesn't want to participate in an activity, I do my best to consider all the facets of the situation: what he might gain by participating, what he might lose by not participating, and how all of that fits in with his needs and his personality. I would never have been brave enough to go to overnight camp when I was a kid. But my son is going to go.

He finally started to rally when I reminded him how disappointed his best friend would be if he ended up at camp alone, and I could see that he'd reached the acceptance stage. We discussed coping strategies for dealing with the parts of camp he is most dreading (what if it's too dark in the cabin? what if I can't sleep?), and this morning I gave him a big hug and kiss before we left, because you know you can't do that at school where everyone will see it.

He was a bit disgusted with me that we walked to school with all that luggage, but hey, we have a wagon, and I'm mean that way. He and my daughter fretted that we looked like dorks pulling a wagon down the street, but I assured them I would look even dorkier when I was walking home all by myself, pulling an empty wagon. They agreed with me. Yes, mom, you're a dork.

I'm sure my son is going to have fun at camp. I know there will be parts he will hate, but when he comes home on Wednesday, he is going to be glad his parents made him go, and he's going to feel proud of himself for having done it.


Leila said...

Darn. Just ate my comment. Anyhow, let's so this again.

I hope he has a wonderful time. I think he will, actually, once the actual "leaving" is past.

As for you... know that I feel much empathy with what you are feeling now.

Leila said...

Must add. Our packing session degenerated into a fight since I insisted on undies with no holes.

And I loved the Mom-with-Empty-Wagon discussion. I'm sure you made their day!

besomom said...

Leila, I think there really is no comparison between a 2-night camp 45 minutes away vs. a 10-day trip OVERSEAS! I don't know how you did it. Your kid amazes me!

Re: underwear: my fear is that when I empty his dirty laundry bag on Wednesday, there will be no underwear in it! (Read: he wore the same pair all week!)

Lynn said...

Great story. Our oldest hated 6th grade camp. He didn't even like the 8th grade trip to DC. The next one loved camp, any kind of camp. He is more of a people person. I wonder if it is an "oldest" thing.

Michele T. said...

besomom wrote" Re: underwear: my fear is that when I empty his dirty laundry bag on Wednesday, there will be no underwear in it! (Read: he wore the same pair all week!)"

This is exactly what happened last week when Z. went on her two night overnight school trip. When we unpacked and I said, "ewww" to her about it she said "I'm going to go take a shower right now". Good idea!