Life can get heavy

reentry

Being an astronaut must be a hoot. Imagine living up in space where there are literally no rules! You can float around wherever you want, never have to eat Brussel sprouts and  essentially play video games to complete your missions. It would be a little like camp. Well, the good camps where no one is looking over your shoulder to make sure you’re finishing your vegetables and if you want to do archery for a half a day then just go for it. Showers? Nope. And you’re just hanging with your peeps, no parents in sight.

I understand the training to become an astronaut is pretty intense but so too is the build up to camp. When your kids are young they make you feel like the one night stay at Shady Pines half an hour from home, with 8 parent volunteers for 10 children, hot meals and a full bed in a cabin is akin to a month in the Gulag (look it up, it wasn’t good).  On drop-off day your carpet is sopping wet with a flooded mixture of tears and drool, and small clumps have been torn out by powerful little hands and scattered throughout your living room. As they get older time away from home moves from punishment to reward. One night can stretch into three, then seven, fourteen if they’re gamers and a full month if they’ve drunk the Kool-aid.

At that stage the whole thing changes.

Full-monthers, and full-monthers in their last year ever of being a camper before moving into a staff roll, are camp zealots. They count down the days until they can escape the boredom and monotony of regular life and get back to where life is full and rich and fun all the time. Bags are packed weeks in advance, goal-setting is sharp and directed and the list of must-do’s is longer than an NBA centre’s arm. Indeed, were university and careers attacked with the same vigour and energy of camp agendas there would be no such thing as recessions and we’d have solved climate change, world hunger and rid the world of disease.

Full-monthers live out each day in a routine that would impress most global militaries in such close proximity to their cabin mates that personal possessions no longer have any meaning and personal space is to be found in the outdoor latrines, and even that isn’t always the case. Time is measured in euchre games, sloppy joes, biweekly showers and campfire stories. Yes there are rules but when they’re enforced by people other than your parents they don’t seem quite as suffocating nor as unreasonable.

Life is rich indeed.

Which makes reentry so damn unpleasant. A camper’s home and their parents haven’t changed, but they have. Boy-o-boy. The freedoms and laughter that are a way of life when bunking with 8 people your own age are gone, replaced instead with little brothers (no further embellishments needed), mothers who remind you to sit straight and fathers who can’t seem to stop asking you to put away the peanut butter. Honestly. The weight of expectations in the ebb and flow of living with a family are heavy.

Astronauts describe returning to earth as an out of body experience where everything feels cumbersome, sluggish and overbearing. Their bodies are pulled down by gravity to the point where their tongues and lips feel unwieldy. Moving is a literally a drag. Maybe what parents of kids who love camp so desperately need are a retired astronaut to handle the immersion back to home life. Someone who can say, “I understand” at a truly meaningful level. Someone who can relate to that feeling that what was once so normal can feel so foreign. Someone who gets the practicality and freedom that comes from not having to shower.

Sometimes, life can get heavy.

What I said and what I wanted to say…

what i said.jpg

Two weeks ago we dropped our kids off at camp, three provinces away, for a month long stay. Today I received a letter from our son and it instantly reminded me of the feelings I had when we said our final goodbyes before leaving him with his cabin mates. Like many boys, he finds being away from home challenging, especially in the evenings. He’s honest and open with his emotions in the lead-up to camp and at the actual drop off (when extra hugs are never ending). I tried to provide a sense of strength and positivity by acknowledging his fears and reminding him of the good times ahead but deep inside, I’m a super softie.

 

 

Nasty.

camp bags

Any parent whose kid has gone to overnight camp can relate to this. Thanks very much Camp Ponacka and Camp Tanamakoon…

Best mail from camp. Ever.

We are continually wondering if there is anything in the mail for us from the kids.

kidsmail

As they are 3.241.3km away, and we live in a mountain town where mail can take a while to get through the snowy pass and past ornery big horn sheep, there have been more days of nothing than something. Last week however we received the following (I’d misplaced it and just found again today), which is quite simply the best piece of mail I’ve ever received.

ben and horse

On the back was written:

Today I almost died. The day, August 4th, I was on a cook out and the horse got stung by a bee and freaked out and I fell off and got stood on my knee and got dragged and I thought I was going to die. I really really thought I was going to die. – Love Ben

I absolutely love the drawing. The placement of the bee, the motion of the fast running horse, the position of my son. I do wonder however, why he’s drawn himself in what looks suspiciously like a prison jump suit…

A good attitude goes a long way

wetellie

Our kids are away at camp and as any parent who has sent their kids to overnight camp knows, there is a ton of planning and a decent amount of stress associated with getting ready and delivering our children to their home away from home. This year we were lucky enough to stay with our dear friends in Ontario, at their lake access cottage. Their daughters attend the same camp as ours and all four girls had their bags packed, their backpacks set and their camp uniforms on. After getting dropped off at the dock it was but a short walk to the car and we’d whisk them away. Alas, a smooth getaway was not to be. Moments after seeing the kids walk across the dock we heard a “SPLASH!” I looked at my wife and we both knew who had fallen in.

Panic could have ensued. Shouting could have occurred. Tears could have been shed. Instead, my amazing daughter stated what had happened had happened and all that could be done was to clean up and move forward. I made a point of addressing both families and acknowledging that to a person, any other of us in my daughter’s position would have lost it. Maturity and confidence are qualities we as parents are constantly trying to build in our children. On a summer’s day, in a lake in Muskoka, we saw those qualities in action and despite the wet gear, that felt pretty good.

A letter to my boy at camp.

ben camp

(And just in case my writing was a bit sloppy, here it is typed out…)

My boy…You were so very brave when we dropped you off. Two weeks away from home is a big deal and the magnitude of your undertaking is not lost on us. It’s been 5 days now and I want to write you a letter that explains how much I miss you, how proud I am of you and how I think about you every single day. I want to write and tell you that tears are not a sign of weakness, they are a symbol of your sensitivity. I want to write that there is no way I could have gone to camp on my own at only 9, without knowing anyone else, and that I admire your courage. I want to tell you that there will be nice people and mean people and that you have the strength to know the difference. That freedom from your parents is a great thing, that it’s ok to be scared and that with risk can also come reward. Challenge yourself. Question yourself. Have fun. Instead, I wrote a postcard detailing the weather and I can only hope that reading between the lines, you’ll know I love you and think you’re awesome.

And please click on the following link to see a sketch I created when my daughter went to camp: I wanted to tell you…

Perception clearly matters….

Image

reallyoldmom