Happy Camper! – by Cara Potapshyn Meyers
When we dropped my son off at sleep away camp a few weeks ago, it was a perfect send-off. No tears, no clinginess, just a hug, kiss, and a wave goodbye…um…from my son. I had to practically drag my husband away to the car. It was at that moment that I realized that I am a true “free-range” Mom.
We would have no verbal contact with our son for two weeks. He could write to us, and we sent him written cards, e-mail letters through the camp, and care packages. But no contact otherwise. Being a blogger, I guess I am used to writing “one-way” messages. I didn’t expect my son to write back, therefore I wasn’t disappointed when I didn’t receive any cards from him. I also knew he would be having so much fun, he would barely have time to sit down and actually write to us! My husband, on the other hand, was somewhat disappointed that we got no written response at all. My husband worked and slept at his Mom’s the entire two weeks, with the exception of taking our dog to work with him, as our dog was showing signs of depression.
The best, and worst, part of not being able to communicate with our son was the daily photos that were posted on the camp website. On the one hand, it was extremely exciting to see your child having fun! But on the other hand, not being able to pick up the phone and tell them how proud of them you were, was very difficult. In fact, my husband had a corner of his work computer taken up by the website. Whenever new photos were posted, he would call me to go onto the computer to see them. Unlike him, seeing those photos made me melancholy. I was excited on the one hand, but my heart would be heavy knowing I couldn’t speak to my son directly. I finally asked my husband to stop calling me a dozen times a day and that I would review the photos at night, myself.
The day to pick our son up from camp was approaching! I didn’t make his bed until the day before we picked him up, so that his bedding would be fresh! I packed all different types of snacks as the camp did call us at one point to let us know our son barely ate at all. Knowing how picky our son is with food, we told them not to worry. Since it would still be morning when we picked him up, we planned to take him out for breakfast somewhere near the camp.
I think I jumped out of the car before it even stopped moving when I saw my son! I grabbed every bit of this filthy “rag-a-muffin” and swung him around kissing his grubby face! One thing about sleep away camp…expect dirt you never even knew existed. More on that later. We put a tarp down in the back of my car as we were going to be bringing back my son’s mud laden bicycle and all of the other…dirt.
Our son didn’t stop eating once we got to the restaurant! We ordered extra items which he munched on as we drove home. He also fell asleep, with a full belly, on his grimy pillow. This kid was the epitome of exhaustion. My husband and I loved it. It meant that he had a great time, was now fueled up, and was getting recharged.
My son had so many layers of filth on him, my husband suggested that upon getting home, we would unload the car, he would take shampoo, soap, clean clothes and a towel, and go to our local pool to wash the multiple layers of grime off our son. I stood in the driveway in complete and utter amazement. I never knew clothes could actually withstand such intensity of filth! I literally put on rubber gloves and removed items that were completely unsalvageable and put them into a garbage bag. This included a pair of sneakers, many socks, and some unidentifiable clothing that looked like they started out with an undercoat of dirt. I then sorted the absolutely disgusting clothes, which I would wash at least twice, from the clothing that had been untouched, but still would get a washing anyway. By nightfall, I felt as if I had run a marathon. And I thought Day Camp clothing and towels were filthy! Sleep away camp clothing definitely gives new meaning to the word “filth!”
The best part of this whole adventure in our family’s life? Knowing our son was growing up. Knowing that we were doing a great job of raising him to eventually be on his own; independent and confident in his intuition, abilities, while knowing family is always there for him. Finding out what his own likes and dislikes were. Finally, realizing that there are different rules to follow and different responsibilities to meet in unfamiliar situations. And that these rules and responsibilities can be met.
The most wonderful part of our family adventure? Being able to tuck my son into bed, kiss him goodnight, and smell the sweetness of my little boy as he was falling asleep…clutching “Krusty!”