Johnny Angel, Danny Boy and Chrissy Mac are all currently residing in an Upstate NY summer Camp operated by Local Union #3 IBEW called Camp Integrity. Our kids had mixed feelings about going to camp for the first year, although it was Danny’s second year: They were excited, but also scared. “TWO WEEKS!?” Chrissy cried when I told him what, to me, was great news: They were going to summer camp! “They have kayaking and arts and crafts!” I said cheerfully, trying to drum up excitement. “And archery and fishing! I’ve never been kayaking myself, You’ll get to do it before I do!” For weeks we spent evenings talking with Dan asking questions about what to expect. And for weeks Chrissy said “I am not going.” John sat quietly during most discussions soaking in all the information and wondering if he made the right choice to attend. All while Mommy and Daddy planned to break out of the routine, reconnect and rekindle.
The drop off went well, the packing was a nightmare yet in the end they all had what they needed. I am already having anxiety about the amount of laundry I will need to do when they get home. Johnny’s bunk is a short walk from where his younger brothers are. Walking in teenagers were all over the place, throwing footballs, Frisbees and playing music. We settled him in and then moved to the area where the younger boys would bunk. Donald and I settled Chris and Dan into their individual bunks and said of goodbyes. I told Chrissy where all his items were stored so he would know what I packed for him. I ended with these are your water shoes for the lake. He said I told you I am not swimming in the lake. His counselor said swim test in thirty minutes…..it was in that moment that I thought no fighting with Chrissy for two weeks. This poor guy has to deal with his I am not doing that attitude. I silently smiled and gave my hugs and kisses and off we went to make sure John was all settled in. John was talking to his counselor who came all the way from England through an exchange called camp America and I was happy to see him connecting with him. We gave our hugs and off we went to break out of the routine, reconnect and rekindle.
So why send my three boys away for two weeks. The thing is, I believe that it is important to challenge our children in todays world. To get them truly outside of their comfort zones so that they can grow and mature. Our desire to challenge our kids was reinforced in our belief that kids who always have problems solved for them believe that they don’t know how to solve problems. You have to let your child ride their bike and fall. Why? Because they need to learn how to manage that fall and get back on the bike. We are sending them the message that we believe that they can manage those falls along with emotions like loneliness, homesickness, and anxiety. I believed that they could, at the tender ages of 13, 11 and 9, handle these difficult emotions themselves, without me standing over their shoulders telling them to relax. As awful as it sometimes feels to me, they simply don’t always need me there, telling them what to do and what to think and how to react.
UNPLUGGING! Yet another reason we were interested in sending the boys away. Tuning into nature is something they just are not programed to do in todays world. I know they will have tried dozens of new activities, took on new challenges, and learned to accept their discomfort as a part of their growth without their iPods, iPad and iPhone’s! We are all well aware of the effects of too much screen time on our own ability to concentrate and our social interactions. And we don’t want that for our Boys.
In the five short days the kids have been away reconnecting has been the theme. Not only has this given Donald and I to reconnect as husband and wife, it has allowed us to reconnect with our “former selves.” We have had dinner with family, drinks with our Fire Department friends, planned playdates with some old friends and set aside alone time to fall in love all over again. Next week I have even scheduled us to do a shift at Fire Medic’s for Ambulance duty just like old times.
Sending your children away to camp requires a leap of faith and the anxiety of it all will be worth it. It requires an ability to manage the emotional discomfort that comes with not-knowing, not-controlling, not-checking—it requires just trusting. But I’m comfortable with that discomfort. But mostly I am comfortable with the new found temporary silence, full fridge, full checking account, full tank of gas, empty laundry basket and date nights with Donald John.