Excitement was at an all time high this morning.
Packing lists had been printed out. New luggage, purchased just weeks before, was stuffed accordingly. Sleeping bags, bathing suits, bugspray, sunscreen, hats, raincoats and rubber boots, just in case. And the all important stuffie.
The first day at overnight camp was here, and the kids were pumped.
To tell you the truth, I was a little nervous. The original plan was for the Boy to spend a week at this camp with his best friend from Switzerland. Plans changed, however, but I still thought it would be a great experience if the boy went alone. It didn't take much convincing as he's always been a sociable personality. What I didn't know was that Little G was also interested in camp - as long as her BFF could attend as well. Turns out that the schedule worked and we booked camp for BOTH kids as soon as we confirmed (and reconfirmed) that they were absolutely up to it, and ultimately my own excitement for my kids overrode any initial worry that I had.
You see, I had experienced overnight camp as a kid only once myself, and it wasn't the most positive experience. Not because of the camp itself - it was mostly because I attended rather late as a camper after most of my friends had already attended a few sessions and were in leadership roles while I was just a "regular"camper. And we all know how important it is to fit in at camp, especially as a teen. So I've had this dream for my kids to experience overnight camp, to meet new friends, to experience new challenges and create summer memories. The Man had also been looking forward to this time - he recalls fantastic times at Camp Wagon Wheel - and also remembers how happy his folks seemed to be to drop him off.
Yes, a fringe benefit would be a few days for us as a couple alone. After a few "family" days at Great Wolf Lodge, Niagara Falls (our second visit in as many years - fun, despite the "soupy" feel of the water. But I digress). So yes, alone as a couple again, for the second time this year. We've got to milk this 20th anniversary thing for all it's worth, after all.
The two plus hours drive up north was fairly uneventful, with kids checking in with "are we there yet" only a couple of times during the trip. It helped having the DVD screens and "Warm Bodies" playing in the back. Zombies becoming more human was likely not the most appropriate subject mattter for the girlie - but she ended up being bored with the movie, so doubtul that there would be future nightmares. We were lucky enough to be able to bring our fur baby up wiith us - so the whole family would be there for the drop off. I tell you, this camp was seeming more ideal by the minute.
When we came to the driveway of the camp, we were warmly welcomed by at least a dozen excited camp counsellors, hooting and hollering, with smiling faces, physically pretending to reel us into the appropriate parking spot. After we parked, they tagged the kids bags, pointed in the general direction of cabins, and let us go on our way. The set up was superb, witth food on the grill, lots of music, activity, and happy children and even happier parents, abounding around the campgrounds.
We found the girlie's cabin with ease, and she quickly took the top bunk of a bed to be shared with her BFF. The counsellor assigned to her room, for girls 7-9. was a nice young lady from Belfast, with a lovely Irish lilting accent. We were off to a great start, as we ventured out to find the Boy's cabin.
For the 13 year old, things also looked up as a top bunk was also available for him. He met a few of his cabin mates, and then we headed to the food and the pre-show. What I loved was the sense of family - parents were invited to join in the show, and as we were a newbie family to the camp experience, we decided to stick around for the festivities. As we walked through the doors into the "show" I was reminded of the typical feel of a "launch" meeting for work. Oh darn, work got in the way again.
After the fine singing and dancing performances of the show, it was time for the kids to head back to their cabins, and for parents to say goodbyes. As I made my way to the front, I waved at my son who was already quite comfortable with his cabin mates, and looked for my baby girl. Of course as I approached her I couldn't help but feel some sadness. I had to quickly dash that feeling aside, though, as I saw my girlie come to me in tears, screaming that she wanted to go home. She was experiencing separation anxiety at its finest. This was not going to be easy.
In fact, it was heart-wrenching. When she saw her Dad, she screamed and threw herself at him, clinging for dear life, sobbing that she wanted to come home. We tried to console her best we could, summoning her best friend (who was awkward and perplexed, to say the least) over. The young counsellors kindly let us follow them for a quick tour but we felt we had to make a quick exit as soon as possible - prolonging our departure was only making things worse.
And they got worse. After pulling ourselves away, leaving the girl sobbing with the counsellor, we ran back to the car. I was almost sobbing myself - and was quite worried and sad the whole way home. As I write this, I am still sad - I feel that I abandoned her in some way. Oh, I know that this is exactly what she needs - that she will likely have one of the best weeks of her life, she will suck it up and throw herself into the fun that will come at her over the next 6 days. The camp is all about building her confidence, extending new boundaries, helping her experience life beyond Mom and Dad and hopefully establish a new summer tradition of good times. Her brother will be there with her for the 6 days. Less than a week in total. I worry a bit about him, but only a sliver. He's a bit more seasoned at 13. But she is still only 8 years old. Yeah.
There is a lump in my throat. I hope my two rugrats are ok, the boy is chomping in his sleep per usual, and that my G is sleeping well, cuddling with her little bunny and her favourite blanket, knowing this will be a one week sleepover complete with BFF sharing a bunk.
I'm not so sure my night's sleep will be so restful. The first night of away camp. I guess this is a new life experience for me as well.