Whatever became of day camp?

            Zachary will not be returning to day camp next week.

            Just when we think we are imagining how complicated he is, just when we wonder why we ever worried, something happens to remind us that the only reason he seems to be thriving is because we have carefully arranged his environment to suit him just right.  He is like an orchid growing in Madison, WI in January.  He can do it and be stunning, but nobody had better go messing with the temperature in the greenhouse.

            We had planned on three weeks of day camp because the child does not do well without structure and other children.  He is grumpy and moody, pretty much a giant pain in the ass, actually.  But, this week, his first week of day camp, it was clear that Zachary without structure for the next two weeks is far better than Zachary at day camp.

            It is a good little camp, but it is camp.  It is not about sitting and learning in a small group of kids his age, like school is.  He likes the school environment, party because we chose a school that keeps things structured and stimulating without being overwhelming.

            Days spent surrounded by hordes of older children doing gross motor activities all day long?  Apparently not his thing.

            It was a replay of three years ago in daycare.  “He’s doing great,” they tell me, and from their perspective, I can see that.  He is a trouper, and he tries to make the best of a situation he is supposed to be enjoying.  But this is not a child who has accidents, and he was.  He was leaving camp red-eyed and bleary.  Even picking him up early yesterday, he was in tears.

            “People were being unkind,” he told me.  “I like the activities but not the friends.”  That was all it took.  I informed him that Friday was actually the last day of camp.  I am cool with lying to my kid when I have to.

            So, he is back at camp for a final day today so that he does not feel like a quitter.  His one friend from school is there for her last day, too.  But, I have told him that I just signed him up for the one week.

            Again, again, we are reminded that he is the kind of child who needs exactly the right environment.  Of course, all kids do better in a setting well-suited to their personalities, but this child needs to be in the kind of group that allows him to grow at his own pace.  I guess the cost of two weeks of day camp is cheap compared to other ways we could be reminded of this.

            So, Zachary will not be returning to day camp next week. And days like this take it all out of me, because sometimes I prefer the fantasy that life will be easy for him.

16 responses to “Whatever became of day camp?

  1. Poor Z. It is hard when you can’t just make it right, no matter how hard you try.

  2. My daughter, as you know, is that kind of orchid too. Don’t you just have a dull ache in your stomach as you think ahead to schooling? I can work myself up into a full-on panic about it all.

  3. Oh goodness. I could have written that. Except now that he’s ten, I can’t always shelter him away from things that hurt him, as much as I would like. It kills me some days to have to send him to school.

    Zachary is lucky to have a mother who recognizes his uniqueness. He’ll be okay with you in his life.

  4. *nods head*

    The fantasy is better than reality sometimes.

  5. I vex on this as well. On one hand I want to shelter my daughter from bad things and on the other, I want her to see them and learn how to adapt and handle them herself.

    It is a delicate balance . . .

  6. yes, yes, i hear ya. For me I just want it to be easier for him – and me – and feel it could be (if only….) It’s hard to move past the long list of if onlies…
    they may change LPs teacher. i dont’ know why.

  7. He reminds me so much of my oldest son in many ways–which I think is why I started reading your blog. Just want you to know that things WILL work out as long as you keep accepting him for who he is.

  8. good for you, mama. good for you.

  9. “People were being unkind,” he told me. “I like the activities but not the friends.”

    How aware he is of what works for him, and what a mature way for the little guy to express why day camp isn’t the right place for him. Yay to you and J for the support and tools that you’re giving him.

    (From someone who had both wonderful and miserable camp experiences)

  10. I want to reassure you and Mad, as the mother of a Hothouse Orchid a little down the road, that it will be okay. I do not ask her to be anything other than who she is (well okay less snappish and snarky, I do ask that, and less messy, but these are not esteem busting) and so, she is fine, to do her own thing and make her own way. We have been advised third grade might be our upper limit and so I frantically work to up our income to get her into private school. Hence my continual absence. But, maybe not. Each step, she’s managed. The older she gets, the better her ability to cope.

    I can’t promise you one single thing. But I so identified with this post. Have BTDT in so many ways. And she has bloomed, even out of her greenhouse. We just have to…process some thing sometimes.

  11. Reading your post and others’ comments, makes me know that my complex fella, C, is not alone in his complexities. He has the advantage of having a twin brother who has his back (most of the time) and I have great faith in the school where he will start in September where the social/emotional piece is considered as important (more so?) than the academic one. However, while I want to celebrate C as he is, with all his complexities, I do so want him to expand his coping skills.

  12. He’s so very young – as he gets older, this kind of thing will get easier for him. You did exactly right by taking him out of the environment, so hang on in there. In time, with protection, he will learn to manage much better. My own son did, and yours will too. Particularly when you are so ready to respond to his needs.

  13. I would be drained, too. When it seems like you have it all together–at least for a few days–the it’s not together at all. Can imagine feeling helpless sometimes, but you have to do what is best, and you see that.

  14. “People were being unkind.”
    Oh, he breaks my heart. That sweet, special boy. He’s lucky he’s got a mother who’s as in tune with him as you are. Not all parents would see how important it was for him to not spend any more time at camp.

  15. Well, he tried it, and thats all anyone can ask. That sucks that some “friends” were not nice to him! Life will not always be easy for him, but life will still be GREAT in other ways… and who needs camp, anyway?

  16. Sorry I am late in reading this post, Emily. But I still wanted to say, I stand in solidarity with you! Good decision to pull him out of camp and tell him you’d only signed up for one week. Sometimes it’s a good fit and sometimes it isn’t and I think it is great to recognize when it isn’t and make other arrangements. I realize we can’t do this for all of our childrens’ lives but we certainly should while we can.