Hello Muddah, See Ya Layda
By: Kathy Buckworth
"And try to remember to have more than one shower in a month…or at least make sure that the one shower is just before you come home."
With these words, I sent my eleven year old son off to camp. Okay, technically he was ten, and he would celebrate his eleventh birthday at camp, without me. Does that, plus the fact that I was really looking forward to having one less kid in the house, make me a bad mother? I wondered about it as I attempted to give him a last hug goodbye, but his mind was already on the seven chocolate bars and three root beers he would consume on the four hour bus ride ahead of him. Ten/eleven year old boys aren't much for hugging their Moms, it appeared as I observed the other parents and their squirming sons. We all had tears in our eyes – but perhaps for different reasons.
When I had mentioned to friends that Alex was leaving for a month, the reaction was varied.
"A whole month? We would never send our children away." (Hey, I've met your kids – why not?)
"A whole month? Lucky dog. What will you do with all your spare time? (Um, I have 3 other kids and I work?)
"A whole month? Won't you miss him?" (Like crazy when I pass his quiet, tidy, empty bedroom, and not at all when the dinner table noise is ratcheted down one notch.)
We have always seen summer camp as a privilege for our kids. Hanging out with cool teenage counselors and not being nagged has got to be better than "Camp Cranky Mom" on a good day.
Summer camp isn't new in our house; the kids have been going off for a few years now, but this was the first time one of them had gone for longer than two weeks. My husband assured me that the time would fly and he would be back up to full sister-pestering mode before long (my son that is).
First letter "Having a great time but lost the paper you gave me to write letters." (A likely story.)
Second letter "Still having a great time. Found the paper. Had a shower on the 10th."
(He knows what day it was? Not the shower, but in general? This is new.)
Third letter "Two kids got hypothermia! Good times."
Better than dysentery I suppose.
I'm just impressed we got three letters. It's two more than we've ever had before. I have to admire his succinctness and ability to relay only the facts. Perhaps a male quality, which translates itself later in life to the ability to truly say "Nothing" when perpetually being asked by their spouses "What are you thinking about?"
It is the absolute maleness of the camp which appeals to Alex, with two sisters and only one brother, who at the toddler age doesn't really count as ‘one for his side' according to him. On visiting day he totally loved grossing out his older sister out with descriptions of the ‘double dumpers' (all named, for example, The Bank of Montreal, for deposits) and ‘funnels' (use your imagination), which was topped only by the grisly details of horse mucking stories and dead rabbit tales. Oh, and they added "Big Ben 2", which is a triple dumper, for the record.
I tried not to notice that his underwear, socks, and other clothes were still neatly folded on his shelves, as the only reason for this aberration could be that they hadn't yet been unfolded and worn…14 days later. And I definitely noticed the family photo he had pinned over his bed – the one that I snuck in his camp trunk when he wasn't looking.
The world's pickiest eater at home, he announces that the food is excellent. For context, my cooking is pronounced ‘nasty' each and every night. Are they cooking pizzas, tacos, and other kid favourites every night? No, they are just proving the old adage that hunger is the best spice.
Sailing, horseback riding, canoeing, camp-outs, swimming, sing-alongs and the camaraderie which I assume can only come with being in an all male setting (i.e. lots of gross out humour and bodily function explosions) ensure that he will get off the bus a happy and stinky kid.
The hardest part of all of this will be explaining to his devoted and self-proclaimed "surfer dude" five year old sister that this camp will never be on her summer agenda. And trying to match the superb cooking, of course.
Kathy Buckworth is a Mississauga based freelance writer and mother of four. Her book, The Secret Life of Supermom was released in Spring, 2005.