Originally posted July 3, 2008
I told Noah about the Vaseline on the toilet seat. And
about putting conditioner in the shampoo bottles. I may even
have mentioned the Saran Wrap my bunkmates and I stretched across
the toilet seat in the cabin next door while everyone else was
That one is a camp pranks best-hit. An oldie but a
Hey, I'm sorry if it's your kid who bears the brunt of my kid's
camp pranks, but I had to come up with something to make Noah's
first solo week away from home sound appealing.
Yeah, I know, I should know better.
The first time I broached the subject of camp, Noah was
"A week's a long time," he slowly replied, as I loaded the
dishwasher and he poked his head into the pantry to sniff out a
He agreed that the zip-line, horseback rides and bonfires all
sounded swell, but he's never been away from us for that
long. A week is a long time.
When I mentioned that his best buds were also going and that
they'd even get to bunk in the same cabin, he nodded. Then he
Close, but no cigar.
It was time to dig deep, so I hooked him with the pranks.
That sealed the deal.
Again, I'm truly sorry. Did I mention that I'm a
therapist? Free trauma counseling if my kid makes your kid
cry. I'll even squeeze in a few minutes for your kid.
Why the hard sell? Had Noah's friends not been going I
might have waited another year to consider sending him away to
camp, but I sensed an opportunity. I'm reassured that he'll
have his buddies with him on his first journey into the woods
without Mommy's compass. This time he'll have to find his own
way, without my guidance - or interference. Plus, there's
something magical about a boy going to camp while he still
possesses a sense of wonder, before pursuing girls becomes a
A child's first trip to camp is a right of passage. Sure,
it's a nice break from Mom, Dad and little sis', but it's more than
that. Camp will be an opportunity for our son to catch a
glimpse of himself as a totally separate person, differentiated
from our family. He'll discover how he's inclined to react
and respond to social situations and other conundrums
independently. He'll learn to recognize his own voice.
Oh, and lest I forget, camp will also be a chance for Noah to
miss us. To really appreciate his Dad and me and to realize
how good he's got it at home. To miss getting read to every
night as he falls to sleep.
I'm going to have a little cry now.
Many years ago I listened as noted pediatrician and parenting
guru T. Berry Brazelton addressed a Mom concerned with preparing
her young child for a brief separation from her. "Trust me,"
he smiled in his signature grandfatherly style, "It'll be harder on
you than it will be on him." I recall nodding self-assuredly
as I laughed along with the audience of family therapists and the
smattering of parents who'd come to hear Brazelton speak.
Eighteen years later I've shed that naive self-assurance, and
can totally relate to that worried Mom. I also get what
Brazelton meant. Sure, Noah will experience a pang or two of
homesickness, but he'll have the time of his life. He'll be
too busy to miss me for long. Though, given the stellar
sarcasm I've been subjected to recently he'd better miss me or I'm
getting my money back.
As for the pranks, I tried to redeem myself with talk of
consequences and potential paybacks, but I'm afraid Noah didn't
give a hoot about that. Too busy plotting. I never got
around to mentioning the old 'itching powder in the PJ's' prank,
though. Take it, it's yours. But tell your kid to go
easy on Noah. Like I said, it's his first time.
Camp will be good for all of us. Todd and I will get to
dote on Holly and have a squabble-free week, and Noah will really
dig the zip-line. The zip-line has actually been on
my "list of things to do before I die" for a while now. Hmmm
…I wonder if Noah will mind if I tag along…
I sure am gonna miss the little guy.
Then again, maybe it won't be so bad. Chances are, he'll
get kicked out and sent home early.
Jennifer DuBose, M.S., C.A.S., is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Batavia.
See more of Jennifer's stories here.
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