We sent our 8-year-old son to Camp Sea Gull for his first sleep away camp experience. This has been a months long process, with decisions ranging from is he ready, to which camp and which week. We also had to get over the sticker shock!
We decided on Sea Gull because my husband, Robert, grew up going to Camp Morehead – a sailing camp that is no longer open. He wanted his only son to have the same camp experience that he did, on the coast with lots of boating. There were also several boys from his school attending. The week worked itself out, school was out on Friday, we dropped him off on Sunday. The big question – Is he ready? On any given day this is debatable but we are fortunate that we have a son who is very extroverted and loves to try new things. He does well in environments that are busy with lots of activities. Off to camp he goes!!
After several weeks of making sure all the forms were filled out and returned, gathering all the stuff (10 pairs of underwear, sunscreen, bug spray, shower bucket, clip on fan, sheets, towels, shorts, shirts, etc) it was time to label and pack it all up. I decided with my rough and tumble kid, that labels were not the way to go but that the good ‘ole Sharpie was the ticket. So here I am with a 4-year-old and 2-year-old running around trying to Sharpie his name into the 10 pairs of underwear, 6 pairs of socks, t-shirts, shorts, swim shirts – you get the picture and then it is time to pack it all away. Then I have to pack the rest of the family because we decided that while Trey was at camp, we would go to the beach nearby. I did this selfishly because I didn’t want to be so far away from him.
Drop-off day – We arrive to camp, see tons of boys running around and lots of families unpacking. We find Trey’s cabin, meet the counselors and I start unpacking. I make his bunk and realize that in all my checking and double checking we had left his pillow. No problem, Counselor Miller has two. I carefully organize everything in his locker – shorts matched with shirts, towels hanging from nails, pre-addressed envelopes and paper, all placed carefully. I exchange his pre-ordered camp shorts and t-shirt for the correct sizes and turn in all forms. Did I mention all this is being done is 100 degree heat and no air conditioning? I was sweating in places I didn’t know could sweat.
Time to say goodbye – I look at my husband and ask where Trey is. He looks at me funny and tells me that he is long gone. I tell him I need to say goodbye and I love you. Too late is the response. What? Too late? I didn’t get to say goodbye. All that hard work, effort and sweat and no goodbye – are you kidding me? As I was told to get in the car to drive off, all I could think about was not telling my baby goodbye.
Pick up. We arrive at lunch time, while all the boys are in the mess hall. We go to his cabin and this time I am prepared in work out clothes to pack him up. Wait a minute, my son’s bag is all packed, locker cleared out and is ready to go. We load it up and walk over to the mess hall for dismissal. The boys start streaming out and I am seeing happy reunions, and then I hear it – MOM. I look over and there he is, arms out, running to me, big hug and the words “I want to stay all year!”
So there you have it. My experience with sleep away camp. I busted my tail to make it all happen, I didn’t get to say good bye and he wants to stay there forever. You know what? I couldn’t be happier for him. I am thankful that he had such a great experience, I am thankful that we could give him that, and I am thankful I have my boy safely home with me.