Last week all 5 of the kiddos went to resident camp here at Camp Eberhart, this marked the first time for Binyam (he’s always just done a week of day camp-coming home every night) and the first time for them all at our new camp. Though they all wanted to go back to Camp Abe Lincoln for a week as well, we just couldn’t make it work this year.
Every summer I try to plan their week of camp towards the end of summer for one main reason: we are positively sick of each other. If I plan their week away too soon after school lets out we are still in the honeymoon stages of summer. All blissed out on late nights and sleeping in. I’ve found a few weeks before school returns is the best time for all of us to send them away for a week. 😉
It was a little bizarre for me not knowing all of the procedures for drop off and the like at this camp. Having lived at Abe Lincoln for 7 years I knew all of the ins and outs, as well as most of the counselors and all of the staff. I’m not quite there at Eberhart so I got to experience what a first time mom must feel like when dropping her kids off-a little overwhelmed. But because I’ve been there let me tell you-don’t let it stop you. It’s short lived uncomfortableness for a week of (mostly) bliss!
In past years I would often see the kids at least once a day, either walking by our house (at Abe Lincoln our house was in the middle of all camp activity) or at meals. This year I made it a point to stay away all week- I wanted to give them a legit camp experience. Though they saw Zach off and on during the week (hard to avoid when his office is in the main lodge) only Dailah saw me once and that was because she brought two of her friends to our house during their open period. 🙂
Zach and I had an awesome week together, heading to Kalamazoo and Chicago for some quick getaways. I’m so grateful for his new job that allows him to sneak away for a bit during the summer. Other than that one time when we had to go pick up our 2 new sons in Ethiopia for two weeks (!) Zach hasn’t been able to take an hour off any summer, let alone an afternoon or a whole night! Felt a little like playing hooky, which we all know makes everything feel a little more exciting!
The kids had so much fun. Every year I’m reminded why I send them to camp-they come back so mature and so proud of themselves. Remember how you felt the first time you really fled the coop? I remember the first time I came back from college I was walking just a little taller, feeling so much older because I had managed to survive without my parents. I think that’s essentially what camp does for kids. Yes, Trysten wore the same shirt for 6 straight days and Binyam forgot to bring a pillow altogether (one of my rules is that they are responsible for packing their things. I will not bring them anything they’ve forgotten). Yes, Tomas only wore his swimming trunks all week and Tariku lost his voice from all the camp songs and the yelling. It is not what our week would’ve looked like had they been with me but they lived and it only took 3 days for their feet to dislodge all of the dirt.
But more than that the reports from their counselors said things like, “He is a remarkably polite and respectful young man.” “He was so good at including everyone in group activities!” “He has a very amicable and generous personality which made him a joy to be around.” “He was one of the nicest boys I have ever had in my cabin.” “She brought just the perfect amount of joy, friendship and sassiness to the whole cabin!”
I love that. You’ve heard it said that character is what people are doing when no one is watching, right? For kids I think it’s what’s being done when their parents aren’t watching. I’m so proud of them for sticking to their guns even when it would’ve been pretty easy to forget all they’ve learned.
As a quick aside for adoptive parents…camp can still be a little hard for my babes. Tariku actually picked a fight with me an hour before we dropped him off. Even though I knew it was a defense mechanism it was still really hard to not go for the bait. It’s so much easier for him to say good bye to us for a week if he convinces us all he never loved us anyway. And Tariku is always upset for a few days upon returning home (as evidenced in the above photo). This was the first year he didn’t cry for the first 2 nights home begging to go back to camp. Even Zach said this year that it was hard to see Tariku so loving with the kids and counselors-his arm flung around their shoulders. Looking like the weight had been lifted off his shoulders. Even after 6 years we have to remind ourselves that it might always be this way-life in a family is really hard, life in a group of friends with fewer expectations and fewer emotionally charged memories is WAY. Easier.
That said, every year gets a little bit better. Every year they assimilate a little more back into the family structure and every year I think it helps remind them of their permanency here. So please don’t let that be a reason you don’t send your kids.*
Note: no one pays me to endorse camp. Zach is such a stickler for rules, we even pay for our kids to go (should anyone question who is the better human between the pair of us they need only listen to our conversations about paying for camp. This involves mostly me whining about the cost and the fact that he’s the director maybe they should go for free and him reminding me that it is a non-profit and because we pay camp is able to afford to give a spot to a kid who can’t afford it. Point-Zach.)
*Obviously you know your kids better than I ever will so if attaching isn’t going well at all, probably they aren’t ready for camp.