Friday, August 17, 2012

How I know my son likes his camp counselor

Charlie's cabin, with counselor Ben

So, we dropped Charlie off for camp on Sunday, and we pick him up tomorrow.  It's his first trip to sleepaway camp, and we're grateful for the eCamp service that does two things.  We can send him emails that get printed and distributed at mail call, and the camp posts photos of each days activities.  Comb through several hundred photos of several hundred kids, and you can ID yours to get proof that he/she is still alive.

We met Charlie's counselor, Ben, when we dropped him off and signed him in.  I felt a surprising surge of anxious emotion when we actually hugged the boy goodbye and walked to the parking lot.  After all, we believe we can trust this Christian camp to treat him well, but we don't really know anyone there.  We weren't able to arrange for him to go during a week when he has a buddy there.  And I never had to go to camp alone; my twin brother was always in my cabin (for good and ill).  When I saw Charlie in a picture from late in his camp week, I felt reassured that he at least likes his counselor.  I deduce that from the fact that when we met Ben, he had his baseball cap on backwards.  In every photo we've seen of Ben, he has his cap on backwards.  He may not be aware that a hat can be worn with the bill in the front.  When I spied Charlie playing a big group game, his cap was backwards.  I can't remember the last time I saw him wearing his cap backwards at home.  He clearly wants to emulate the recent college graduate who herds him and his cabin-mates around.  I hope that means he's a good guy who's made Charlie - a new kid - feel at home.
Offense wins games.  Defense wins championships.

Of course, Charlie feels at home just about everywhere, which is one thing that makes him an awesome kid.  We didn't deeply fear that he would have a bad week.  It's very likely that he's made lots of new friends and thrown himself in whole hog.  My apprehension at leaving him, though, derived not just from thinking about his phyiscal safety far from home.   He's headed into fifth grade, and children aren't necessarily nice people.  Would he - a game, intense, skinny kid with glasses and a short haircut - fit in with the under-armor-sporting, flat-brim hat, Bieber-haircut suburban kids who are clearly the cool crew at this camp?  Has he finally gotten to an age where being eager and sensitive and warm will enable his feelings to get hurt more?  Middle school looms.

One final note in what has become a long dispatch from a first-time sleepaway camp parent: Teddy has reacted to Charlie's absence in a variety of ways.  He envied Charlie going to camp when he wasn't.  He has grieved the lack of his consistent playmate.  At the same time, he has relished being able to choose how to play both by himself and with the babysitter and his parents.  He has enjoyed choosing what to play on the Wii without his bossy brother dictating terms.  Bedtime has bewitched a few times.  One night, he came out crying after getting into bed.  He couldn't fall asleep without Charlie there; they've shared a room his whole life.  I asked him if he wanted to email Charlie, and he said yes (thanks, eCamp!).  Through tears, he dictated, and I typed.  When he bawled "I want you.", I said that people usually say "I miss you."  He agreed to that edit.  "What else?", I asked.  "I hope you're having a good time." he said, which I found to be a very loving thing to say, even if it is formulaic.  "What else?"  "That's it."  He went off to bed.  Their reunion tomorrow should be very interesting.  I wonder if Teddy will start wearing his hat backwards.


Anne H. said...

Can't wait to hear all about it. Sleep-away camp is a good experience for boys and girls at about this age. Our three, of whom one is Charlie's mother, did it and it went well. Of course Charlie's mother had her older sister at camp too but I feel sure she'd have handled it alone if need be. Independence and self-sufficiency are gifts we can give our kids.

Lauren Jackson said...

Wonderful to read your account, Jeff. I hope the weekend reunion was sweet.