What I learned from sending my boy away to camp

Well, today’s the big day. The day my son comes home after 26 days of camping up in the wilds of Canada at an all boys camp.

Where has the time gone? It seems to have slipped away and that suggests to me that I made the most of it, got into a groove and got things done. And by things, I mean writing, mostly, and relaxing.

My husband can attest to both. He’s watched me write for what in his estimation has been 6 to 8 hours a day. It doesn’t ever feel like that, but I guess between writing and related research, reading and critiquing other Yeah Writers’ work, and reading through the many blogs I follow, his estimate is probably correct. So that’s how the time has flown.

I feel guilty for admitting that I really enjoyed the freedom to be able to write all day, without having to entertain someone. But there it is, my guilty secret. I miss him, for sure, and I’m pretty excited to see him today, but I will also miss having my days to myself.

Really, I shouldn’t feel guilty because I know he would spend all his months at camp, without us, if that was an option.

Besides writing and related activities, I have allowed myself to relax. The pressure of taking care of a little being has eased. My husband can equally attest that I get up more or less when I want to, and go to bed later as well. I no longer angst over meals; I just make whatever is available in the fridge and cupboards.

Why don’t I live like this normally, with my son here? There are of course some differences (he does need to be told what to do, and I do need to give him some attention!), but this month to myself has taught me that I fuss too much. And why? He’s doing well. He’s nine. He doesn’t need me to weigh myself down with responsibility for him. We’d all be much happier if I just took it down a notch, or two.

Meanwhile, he’s been living in a tent under very rustic conditions through what has been a pretty cold and wet month. From what I can see of the pictures the camp posts, he seems to have survived. And more than that, he’s smiling. On visitors’ Day, he even told us he wants to return next year for two 26-day sessions! That’s not going to happen, but the point is, he has happily and successfully taken care of himself with minimal guidance. I mean, it’s a camp of boys, run by boys! He has fed himself (the kids get to choose from the salad bar if they don’t like the hot meals), clothed himself, bathed himself (or possibly not), got himself to his activities on time, handled a sprained ankle, lived through adverse weather conditions,dealt with any drama and upset, followed rules, and taken on responsibilities.

And that’s another thing. The camp has rules and structure, a schedule and individual responsibilities. They are presented matter-of-factly as just the way things are. From what I gather, there is little (if any) resistance to the rules, the daily routine, the hierarchy or chores. The boys just get on with it.

Why is there so much resistance at home, then?

I know, I know. Because we are not as fun as a boys’ camp. We don’t scream and cheer and slam the table at every meal, thereby releasing all the pent up rule-following angst. We’re old(er). We’re boring. We’re strict. But, perhaps we (read: I) need to present the rules and the schedule more calmly and matter-of-factly, like the camp does. Without wiggle room. Without inviting him to test the boundaries or rebel. I know he will anyway, but I think I can do my part to bring some level of harmony to the way things work at home.

This is related to my first point about easing off a bit. Hovering less. Worrying less. Relaxing more.

I guess we both learned something from this experience. I just hope I can apply the lessons and avoid slipping into my old habits.




11 thoughts on “What I learned from sending my boy away to camp

  1. How about offering a camp day at home every once in while where you all get to be kids at the table – bang on it, sing and just have fun!!! Could be interesting :>))

  2. Hope you had a great homecoming!! That is amazing, what he has done!!! You should be so proud he’s growing up and taking care so well. I can definitely relate to the home routine changing though. With us, it does a lot when my hubby is out of town. And last month it was a lot! We just grab whatever we can find for dinner and relax and it’s not a big scene. Then when my husband comes home? He likes those sit down for awhile meals with the main course….I personally have a tough time adjusting. I’m so glad you had that time to yourself writing, what an amazing experience of calm you must have had, esp. Before going back to work!

    • Thanks, Robin. Yes, it’s been quite a luxury! Now I have to get used to setting aside me time in the midst of everyone-else-time and schedules picking up again. It’s good, though, I will get to put into practice all that I’ve learned.

  3. What’s wrong with the two sessions next Summer? You’ll have two month to write, he’ll have double the fun, and you’ll be twice as happy on his Homecoming!

    • Ha! Mostly the price – the literal price, that is! Also, I think it’s more time than he realizes. And he’s only 9. But mostly it’s the price. Also, we usually go on a family holiday in July but that’s kind of beside the point. Did I mention the price!?

      • I never went to camp when I was in America, so I wouldn’t have any clue. I didn’t know it was that expensive… I always figured tents and campfire was on the affordable side of the spectrum. Well, you learn things everyday, I guess.

  4. What a wonderful experience for both of you. The fact the boys take on the rules without any disagreement, is that they are told without the emotions mums can bring into things. If they don’t do as they are told; mums tend to take it personally. (Why won’t they listen to me?) Many of us have been there!

    Being a mum of 2 boys, I’ve watched how they are with their father and stepfather and there is a difference. When they say “Hey, take the bins out”, they say it without any emotional attachment and it’s not a question. Whereas when I or other mums I’ve been around, want their boys to do something, we ask them. “Can you take the bins out please?” Theres a difference in the way that men and boys relate. The kids think they have a choice. After all, we are asking and not simply telling them.

    Anyway, something to consider. Hopefully you can continue to enjoy a bit of freedom when he does return and keep us the momentum of his new found independence.

    • That is such a true and valuable observation. You are completely right. Granted, he does rebel when my husband tells him to do things, but that’s because he’s hoping I’ll intervene. Could be a step-relationship thing. But generally, yes, he does much better if you remove the emotion from the task and from the request. I have been striving to do that since he returned a week ago. He whines and complains and gives us more attitude than usual but I think he’s realizing that things have changed, that he is expected to do as he’s told, and he is pushing the boundaries to see exactly how much they’ve changed. Maybe. Parenting is a huge growing experience for everyone involved!!

      • I actually wrote an article about this very thing, for the mag I write for. It won’t get published until next month, so I can’t link it.

        I think you are spot on about the step-parenting thing and your son pushing the boundaries. My boys did it with their step-dad and pushed every boundary we put in place. It started around the age your son is. I hate to say it, but it lasted for quite a while. Luckily, they are past this stage now, thank goodness!

        Thankfully, our boys have grown into pretty awesome young men. One’s off to Uni next year and the other will follow his footsteps in a couple of years.

        Plus, the relationship I have with my partner has never been more secure. It was a bit like conquering Mt Everest together. It was such hard work, a heck of a learning experience and totally worth every gray hair and wrinkle! 🙂

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