The first year I took my boys to Mom and Me Weekend at Camp Harrison, we dipped our toes into the experience. The second? We jumped in with both feet.
Last year, spending two nights in late May in a cabin at Camp Harrison was about getting a feel for life at the beautiful Boomer, N.C. campus and seeing how my then 6-year-old son Wade would take to camp. Would he be ready for three nights away at overnight camp, and perhaps even a week?
My sister and I took my three boys, including my then 4-year-old twin boys. We were paired in a cabin with one other mother and her then 6-year-old son, who became instant friends. Not only was the weekend a blast, we had our answer: Wade went to mini-camp last July and elected to stay the full week (each young mini-camper is given a choice.) Now we are hooked.
This year, Mom and Me Weekend was more about making the most of the chance to be at camp. When I dropped Wade off at Camp Harrison last July, I left him on the front porch of his cabin, in the capable hands of four young counselors, and then I hit the road, holding back a couple of tears. Same thing when he went to holiday camp for a weekend in December.
Mom and Me gives you the chance to stay for the weekend, have fun with your kids and with the other mothers – to make new friends, make memories and get what feels in many ways like a real vacation – no cooking, no cleaning, no planning. Just fun.
Sure, I was still working on acclimating my twins, who are now 5, in hopes that they are ready to go to camp when they’re eligible at age 6 or soon thereafter. But I also just wanted some quality time with all three of my boys, when I’ve left the computer and calendar and carpool behind. For once, I could be “in the moment.” Plus, we don’t do Boy Scouts – I have a hard enough time keeping up with sports for three boys – so this is my way to jam pack a ton of outdoor fun into a weekend.
We wanted to be back in the same cabin with Vanya and Bennett for Mom and Me this year, but we also wanted to invite more friends. Wade invited his best preschool friend Easton and Bennett brought two elementary school friends, William and Nico. By the time you added up brothers and mothers, we ended up with five moms and nine boys between the ages of 5 and 9 in our cabin. Just the thought of it was intimidating!
We decided to introduce everybody the week before Mom and Me camp, just to create some comfort and familiarity. We all live in Charlotte. So we met for frozen yogurt. The boys immediately starting talking and playing and none of the moms had to say a word to help. Intimidating? Maybe this was going to be easy!
I had been a little worried about taking care of my three sons on my own. My sister couldn’t come this year and my husband was due to enjoy a nice weekend on his own. And I wasn’t sure how they would handle being around so many “big boys.” The twins, at 5, were the only boys in the cabin under 7. But it turned out to be a snap.
From the minute they met up at the cabin on Friday evening, our boys hit it off. They had a ball just running around the grassy field in front of the cafeteria together, or tossing a ball around from their top bunks. During the day Saturday, they got time apart as we divided up and ventured off to our own activities. Then they got right back into the fun when we joined back up at meal time or at the lake.
There is one hard part about Mom and Me camp – just keeping it real here – and that’s the first night in the cabin. With that many children in one room, you’re not going to sleep a ton. There are going to be wiggles and giggles and coughs and bathroom breaks and in our case (my three boys are squarely to blame) early wakeups. But as the amazing executive director of the camp, Michael Landry, pointed out to me before hand, there’s also unlimited coffee. All the moms who shuffled up to the cafeteria, many still in PJs and slippers, shortly after the sun came up Saturday morning found the coffee flowing freely, with an assortment of flavored creamers there for the pumping.
One of our newbie moms wasn’t sure if she could survive a second night. She had struggled to sleep and wondered if she should drive home that night. I understood and wouldn’t have blamed her one bit. But through the course of the day, watching her son in action and with all the fun we all had, she changed her mind. It didn’t hurt that I had a spare set of ear plugs I could share with her. (A must for the packing list!)
But what makes Mom and Me doable and makes you want to keep coming back, is that by Saturday night, after a day of non-stop activities, from archery, paintball, art, horseback riding, swimming, boating and ultimately s’mores and singing by the campfire, you’ve made so many memories that they outweigh the haze of a fitful night. And as a bonus? The children are happily exhausted by then. Nobody had to talk anybody into heading back to the cabin Saturday night, and by 9 p.m. ours was quiet. We woke up the next morning feeling much fresher and happy.
What was fun for me this time on Sunday morning was that I was able to experiment with giving my boys a little independence. I left all three with counselors at the archery range and gave them instructions to go from there to arts and crafts on the cafeteria porch. That meant I could head back to the cabin and pack the car in peace. In no time, I was organized and ready for the hour and 45-minute trip back home.
As we drove back down the gravel mountain road, windows down, we shouted not just happy goodbyes to Camp Harrison but also a big: “We’ll see you next year!” We all want to come back for another Mom and Me adventure next year.
YMCA Camp Harrison
Where campers build character, develop confidence and grow in their faith.