Day 1 of Camp was a no go.
S started sniffling and sneezing the night before so he just stayed home with me and we were snugly and relaxed in the air conditioning. And I was glad not to go to camp.
I don’t talk about my worries much because I just get the dreaded “He’ll be fine.” Like there’s something wrong with me that I don’t know this.
Telling me “he will be fine” makes me want to scream my head off. “Don’t worry” and “relax” do that too.
Don’t say it. It’s not reassuring. It’s condescending.
Drives me nuts.
The cold is better – not send to school better but yes day 2 of very expensive, super fantastic camp better.
In the car he asked me if I’d stay. I said I would. (cheering inside)
When I taught kids drama classes I wanted parents to leave. I knew the kids would be ok- even better- without parents around.
This is my child and I want to watch him and he wants me there. I want to watch him discover things, make friends and get dirty. I like watching his little twig legs leap around covered by a much too big size small shirt. I adore watching him do ninja moves for no reason or sneak around or spin or jump. I just love to observe him. I love to hear his little voice announce to the class “I don’t have a tree at my house” or watch him collect sticks as the other kids just walk.
At camp I met the lovely counselors, already engaged in song. After introductions I sat down at a bench near by.
As I watched S having fun, I felt happy. There was no where else I needed or wanted to be.
He’d wave to me or come over to me to share “Matthew is here” or “did you see that?”
I was painfully aware of the counselors watching me. Were they judging me?
Each time S came over I’d smile and respond and then say “stay at your camp with your group. Stay with your counselors.” Trying to make it clear that I am trying so hard to leave…. Ha! I’m a farce.
Then it was time for the campers to take a hike – m biggest fear was my 4 year old straying from the group on a hike in a huge park. With pervs and snakes and cliffs and broken bottles. Oh yes, I can imagine endless treacheries. Maybe I need to write some horrific fiction to exercise my mind demons.
As the kids left for the hike, S motioned for me to follow.
See, it’s not my fault I’m hovering – S needs me. He is not okay without me.
I followed close behind and S kept motioning for me to come closer. I’d shake my head and mouth “I’m good here. You have fun.”
My inner monologue was my defense as I imagined the counselors were whispering about me:
Well, he just needs to know I’m close by. I’d leave but he’d cry. Believe me, I used to teach, I know it’s better if I leave.
Then it became: It’s my kid and my life. If I want to watch him on a hike with 25 other kids I can. I’m paying a lot of money for this. I can watch. Hey it’s a free park – you going to arrest me for hanging out near my own kid?
Why am I the only mom hanging out?
What happened to “its a parents job to worry,” or “you can never be too careful,” or “better safe than sorry.”
I sat on a bench, as he went to the bathroom with the group and a counselors or two. He beckoned for me to join him.
“No no,” I said. “I’m just watching.” He reluctantly went ahead.
What were the bathrooms like? Gross? Who was helping him? Were park pervs around? He disappeared out of my sight.
I waited. I tried to see his little frame down the trail. In a few minutes I saw some tiny feet and mop of red hair walking towards me. Alone. Not with the group. Not with a counselor. No. No. That’s not good.
He ran towards me.
“You can’t leave the counselors! You can’t leave the campers!”
“No honey. They might think you are lost. We have to go back to them.”
I took his hand to take him back to the bathroom.
“Evie!” The camp director saw me.
I told her how S got away from the pack – unnoticed by the counselors.
She walked S back to the bathroom to join the group.
She’s going to tell me to leave. She’s going to tell me that the whole reason he left the group was to see me. It’s true. But I need to watch. I want to stay.
S joined his deserted group then the camp leader came back to me.
“I’m so sorry,” she said to me. She seemed horrified. “That’s never happened before- where a camper got away from the group.”
She didn’t blame me. She didn’t shame me for distracting my son.
And yeah, it wasn’t trust building that my child escaped the gazes of the counselors and walked all the way back unnoticed. And it doesn’t really matter that it was because I was sitting there. It’s just the fact that it happened.*
*Like the time security at the Burbank airport didn’t catch the butterfly knife I had in my purse as it went through the metal detector (yes it was pre 911). The point was not why I had a deadly weapon in my purse (that’s a whole long other story) but the fact that it wasn’t detected.
When Spense came back with his group he walked over to us – still unaware that there was a problem.
“Sweetheart,” I began, “Do you understand that you need to stay with the counselors?”
“Or else we might think you got lost, ” she added.
Then I heard myself say “I think I should go across the street to those benches. So I don’t distract you.” No. No! Why was I doing this! Can I take it back? Panic.
“Which benches?” He asked, looking in the direction I pointed.
“Just over there. I think you are just having a hard time remembering to stay with the group so I should go.”
The counselor jumped in, “Is it OK if mommy goes? She will just be over there?”
He nodded, reluctantly. Then we hugged. He cried a little on my shoulder. I cried a little in my heart.
“Ok,” he whispered so bravely.
Crap! Now I’d done it. I guess it was the right thing to do. I walked away spying some benches a little closer to the ones I’d promised to go to, yet still too far for him to see me and run to me. There I’d stay.
I sat behind some trees and behind a play structure. I couldn’t see him specifically, just a sea of bodies and bright orange tee shirts. Oh yeah, and the other redhead kid. I kept seeing the other redhead. I trusted that after my kid got away from the counselors they will keep an extra sharp eye on him.
Can’t wait for it to be over.
And then, we do it all again tomorrow