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.