Sunday, July 13, 2008

"Oh they built the ship Titanic..."

I felt a bit of a failure last week. Because it is all about me, o-selfish one.

A while back we signed the boy up for a week of daycamp, with a "major" in golf, and an afternoon of swimming, tennis and soccer. It would be an opportunity for him to explore a new sport, and best of all, he would be going with one of his best friends. Sure, it meant getting up early to catch the bus, but it would only be for a week.

I was so impressed with the organization of the camp, the communication was frequent and they always responded to every question so quickly.

The sun, the play, the friends ... he would LOVE it.

On Day 1, it wasn't surprising that he just wasn't eager. It was something new, there was no school and yet he was being forced out of bed at 7:30 AM after a very late night before. There was no convincing him that it was his fault - that fighting bedtime until he was exhausted at 10:30 PM the previous evening was not such a smart thing after all.

But still, he did it, he got dressed, waited to be picked up and when he saw his friend, off he went.

At 4:30 PM when he was dropped off, the first words out of his mouth were: "It was the worst day of my life!!! The food was horrible, and I only saw B for ONE HOUR!!!"

Gulp. This was going to be a long week.

On Day 2, he woke up again in a terrible mood. He wouldn't eat, he again had been up too late the night before, but he got ready and went again, not convinced that the reassurances I gave him about camp getting better were actually going to be true.

At drop off: "It wasn't much better, Mom. At least the sandwich wasn't soggy; but all we did was hit the ball in tennis. And sit around. Soccer was way easy, not fun at all! But the waterslides were all right (he grudgingly admitted)".

At bedtime the whining would not let up. He was almost in tears. "But I HATE IT!!!!".

On Day 3, a different tactic from Mom. "You don't know how lucky you are, you should be happy to be able to be out playing in the sun, with your friends, learning about sports. There are so many kids who don't have this opportunity. And Mom and Dad are paying a LOT OF MONEY for this so you'd better go and you'd better have fun!"

Desperately seeking solution here. Guilt, maybe that was the answer?

"Okay ..." sighing as he walked out the door.

End of Day 3 - you know the score. "It was awful. It is sooooo boring! I can't stand it! I'd rather stay at home and work on WORKBOOKS all day. Or play with little G. Seriously!!! And it's so, so far away!"

I was butting heads with him. It was annoying the hub, our arguing, whining. We finally got him to bed. And suspected that the underlying root of distress for him was being away from home. Even though it was only a 20 minute drive to camp, he took two buses to get to the golf course. It probably seemed like he was in another town.

So we decided to cancel the rest of the week. It just wasn't worth it. Ian found that some of my own issues were coming out in my arguments with our son. After all, I hated daycamp as a kid, but I had no choice. My parents were both working, and without camp there was nowhere else for me to go. I had to suck it up and in the end came to actually enjoy the camp experience somewhat. It was a life lesson.

I was probably overreacting. But honestly, I thought he should have the fortitude to suck it up and finish the week. If I could do it, he certainly could. But hubs said it should be something he enjoys. It's not like he's quitting school or anything. Point well taken. Still, I felt by cancelling, we had failed.

I don't want to raise a quitter. I want my kids to be exposed to new things, to give themselves a chance to try to succeed before giving up too easily. I'm a perfectionist, almost to the point of being held stagnant by my fears of not succeeding. From a very young age I have been hesitant to try new things lest I not be terribly good at it. I hate failing. I don't like the feeling of failure. But however cliche it is, the learnings from failure are more important than the failure itself.

And that is what I'd like for my kids. I see so much more for them. I don't want them to fail all the time; far from it. It's so much easier to succeed. I wish they could be good at everything.

But obviously they can't be. So at least I'd like them to know that finishing something that you've started is important. It can be so difficult sometimes as a parent. Is this really anxiety that's driving him to avoid this new situation; or is it just blowing smoke at me when all he wants to do is hang around and play video games all day? Do I just not push him hard enough; or will pushing him too far drive him over the edge so he will be unwilling to try any new experiences in the future?

I'm still waiting to see what I will learn from my own "failure" in this scenario. As my kids get older, I suspect I'll continue to be learning more life lessons of my own.


Simon said...

I can understand why you want to teach him to stick with things and try to make the best of them. On the other hand, it sounds like he genuinely didn't enjoy it, and he wasn't just whining or being difficult for the sake of it. I think you made the right decision.

Melissa said...

I'm usually the same way with the whole not quitting thing. In fact, that's an issue with my 8 yr old right now. But with camps, I am different. Some of them look good on paper, but in reality just suck, and this may have been one of them. There may have been too many kids or, as he said, the food was bad, and he just felt uncomfortable. And three days is more than enough trying for that. So I think you're good, too.

Rebecca said...

You and Liam are definitely not failures. Liam is a very good kid and I see him as open to new friends, new experiences and very intelligent. He is not a whiny- complainy type of kid so for him to behave this way, I see it as a truly negative experience he was having at the camp. Sure, it's a new experience and mind boggling in his eyes perhaps to be far from home, but I think that the right thing to do was to persist as much as you did and then draw the line at that. I think he's seen what camp is like and for now it's not for him. Maybe when he's a bit older, he'll be more ready for it. He will probably know when he's ready and he'll tell you.

I know my dd is younger (G's age), but from my experience with her, the best thing for me to do is to try a new activity for a probationary period then pull her out when it becomes clear it's not working. These are extracurricular activities that cost $$$. Why put her and us through the hassle if it ain't working. Without fail, when she is ready, she lets us know and then the activity works with flying colours

Beth from the Funny Farm said...

Day camp for me... was BORING. So boring. Boring. And that was 20 years ago. LOLOL

Beck said...

We made our Girl stick with ten WEEKS of swimming lessons, bringing her weeping and terrified to the pool week after WEEK. Gosh, that was fun. But she finished them. I don't know if she learned an important lesson or not.

Miss said...

You know, sometimes it just doesn't work. That doesn't make us failures as parents. You listened to his needs and took him out. He would have resented it all anyways if you would have forced him to stay.

Kathryn said...

I totally get your point. I'm the same way. Still, I think you made the right decision. I don't think this really qualifies as quitting.

I always wanted to go to daycamp, but now I'm really glad I didn't. ;)

April said...

It is hard to know what that tipping point is, isn't it? Luckily, my girls love the Boys & Girls Club. As a single working mom, I don't know if I could drop them off there every day if they hated it like your son did.

gmcountrymama said...

I tried to talk E into going to the summer rec program all last summer. This year I just asked her to try just one day and see how it was, then she didn't have to go back. She ended up loving it and now I am stuck getting up early everyday to take her!


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