Adventure, Divorce, or Eaten by Bear?

In today’s GenForward living legacy free online genealogy blog I’m considering the milestone we’re about to hit this weekend. Our son is about to go to his first “stay away” summer camp:

For me, as I am sure for many others of you out there, the summer school holiday period is a real pain. I work a lot from home and to have the level of distraction created by one or more hyperactive near teens bouncing around the house is more than I want to be dealing with, especially for 3 months.

I have already instigated a routine where he gets himself up, dressed and breakfasted to some degree, often his signature dish of “egg”, either fried or boiled with some toast, but at least he’s fed without bothering me. He then does a couple of hours of some kind of productive learning. At the moment, it’s Polish language practice on Rosetta Stone, as he’s off again in a few weeks with his mum to see his grandparents in Poland for a fortnight.

Once that one’s out of the way we’ll probably move onto some basic math just to keep him up to speed during this ridiculously long break so that at least he has some retention by the time middle school rolls round (it seems So far away!).

Anyway, once that’s out of the way, he’s allowed 2 hours of electronic gaming time. At the moment he’s big into Portal 2, more usually it’s either StarCraft or Star Wars Battlefront. Either way, this also results in peace and quiet and means we’ve made it to lunch time without too much in the way of chaos. Once he’s fed again I tend to chuck him out to play if he hasn’t already gone.

He has to check in every 2 hours so we can keep tabs a bit on what he’s up to, but as a rule it’s a quiet little estate and he just messes about over at the park with his pals playing Nerf Wars. We did go through a stage where our garage somehow turned into the meeting centre and playroom for half the kids on the estate, but once that was dealt with we were pretty much ok.

Later on in the day he’ll get his chores out of the way, maybe help making dinner if I’m making something he can sensibly “help” with just for the experience. Then wife comes home, family dinner and we’re into the general evening faffing about with bits of work left over from the day and general life stuff so he just amuses himself before getting ready for bed.

Not a perfect system, but it gives me some chance of sanity whilst at the same time making sure he’s fed and watered, learns something, has some fun time on his consoles and computers, and gets out for fresh air, exercise and some social interaction. Most boxes ticked and I can still get most of what I would usually get done completed.

Anyway, this week we have him booked in on a stay away summer camp thing. My wife actually did it. I guess my nagging about letting go of the apron strings a bit has finally paid off. Anyway, we’re not talking about a proper adventure get away in the Rockies or something, it’s a camp that’s about 5 minutes drive from the house. But hey, give her her dues, it’s a start.

We do have very different attitudes and approaches to how best to handle our son. She’s very much still in “he’s my baby and needs mothering” mode. I am very much on the “he’s not a baby any more he’s about to become a teenager and needs to start being treated as such or he won’t act as such” side of the fence. As ever, hopefully our healthy opposition should result in us hitting a middle ground that’s actually about the right place to be.

An example of our differing approaches would be last weekend. He had a party to go to at a friend’s house on the estate where we live. We’d been out before hand so were in the car, and my wife and I were also going off to do more shopping while he was at the party.

My “delivery solution” (we all know that at some point in a child’s life the parents become primarily a delivery solution), was to drop him off at the entrance to our estate as we drove past. He knows the estate, has the address in his pocket, and knows roughly where this boy’s house was. I had no doubt he’d get it wrong to start with, but I was also sure he’d work it out in the end and there was really nothing going to happen on our estate that was a problem. He’d get lost, but eventually find it, one little victory in the plus column and a bit of self confidence. Result.

My wife on the other hand went into panic mode at the mere suggestion that he wasn’t to be hand delivered to the door. We clearly agreed that on the common sense front he wasn’t exactly blessed, I just had the belief he’d sort it out if left to his own devices, she wasn’t so sure. Anyway, I won but with wife giving copious instructions to him (a truly pointless exercise as any more than one at a time goes in one ear and out the other), and off he wandered, with us having to sit there watching at my wife’s insistence. Finally my wife took my point that he was spending more time looking at us watching him, than concentrating on what he was doing so we moved on to do our shopping.

Then, after some stressed fiddling with Google maps on her phone, she realised that she had told him to turn left 2 streets too early and had a total meltdown. This one I wasn’t going to win, so back we went. After 10 minutes driving round to see he wasn’t on the streets plus text messages to make sure he’d arrived alive she finally calmed down. From my perspective it didn’t matter. He didn’t know we had checked up on him so he still had his little victory. When he got home later it turned out I was exactly right, he’d got lost, but worked it out in the end. He’d also got lost on the way home, but again, worked it out in the end. If only everything in life was as predictable!

 Anyway, back to the camp trip that was really the point of my writing. The next thing we got into was the ‘check list’ that the camp sent over, containing suggested stuff to take so that the little darlings could survive the week. I had to re-check the programme of activities to make sure I hadn’t missed the attempt on Everest that seemed to be implied by the supplied list. I had thought that this was a 5 day camp mainly based around water activities on the lake.

Anyway, I’m not sure who had created this list but clearly they were used to much bigger problem cases than our son was likely to be. It was 10 of everything, socks, pants, shoes, long trousers, short trousers, t-shirts, long sleeve tops, swimming trunks, swimming tops, many hats, 4 pairs closed shoes/trainers, water shoes, sandals, sleeping bags, bed linen, sun cream, insect repellent, multiple tooth brushes, tooth paste, body wash, shampoo, soap, torch, favourite pillow, cuddly toy (I’m not joking), kitchen sink (now I am joking), and on and on and on. The only thing missing from the list was the cargo container needed to carry it all in.

Clearly they were used to children soiling themselves multiple times during the week (or maybe there were just a lot of “accidents” when the kids found out they weren’t allowed electronic devices for a week). If we sent him with half of what was on the list one of us would have to go and stay with him just to carry the bag around, as there’s not a hope in hell he’d be able to even move it.

Fortunately I managed to get hold of this list before my wife did her usual thing of dutifully going off and buying every item on the list to exact specification, so common sense prevailed and we managed to put together a package for him that, with some simple care (ok this might be an overreach but he’s got to learn somehow) would more than suffice, and would not need Hulk Hogan working as his valet.

He’s now all happy and looking forward to it. I’m sure he’ll have a fine time. He’s a reasonable swimmer so he’ll be fine on the water, and I’m fairly sure he’s not likely to get eaten by a bear, primarily because there’s not much meat on him and I’m sure many of the other campers would provide a much more ample snack (plus Dallas isn’t well known for bears). If he picks up the odd bump and scrape and bite along the way, more’s the better and w ho knows, maybe he’ll end up with a tale or two to tell.

He goes on Saturday which means he’ll be away on Father’s day. He was most disappointed as he’d planned to do “cake take 2” for my Father’s day treat as he felt “cake take one” had been such a success for Mother’s day. I on the other had was pleased because him being away meant I didn’t have to break it to him that NOT getting a frisbee cake for Father’s day would actually be the best present, even if he did promise to actually follow the recipe this time rather than improvise.

So, I will be left alone with my wife for a week. We’d had a couple of days away together one time during his life but that’s it, so it’s going to be all novel territory. Personally I’ll be glad of just having the peace (I think everyone gets to that point once they hit a certain age). My concern is that I’m likely to be under pressure from wife to rekindle some romance or do something special. Her mind kind of works like that. She’s the caring sharing emotional one and I’m captain practical. I think for most men, romance is something we can pretend while we’re trying to impress, but can’t sustain for long.

Maybe it’ll be great to be shot of him for a week; maybe it’ll be a disaster and will just end in divorce. I guess the week will be an adventure for us as well, being “not parents” after so long of existing solely in parent mode. Anything could happen. Either way it will certainly be interesting to see whether the camp lives up to it’s billing of “breeding independence” and sends us back a materially different child, or if I’ll be knocking on the door in two weeks asking for a refund to help pay for my divorce lawyer.

Tom@genforward.org

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