Tag Archives: camp

Your Children Are Not Your Children

I had three encounters today that brought to mind these words from Lebanese poet and artist, Kahlil Gibran:

On Children
by Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Khalil Gibran at the age of 15. Photograph by Fred Holland Day, c. 1898.

Khalil Gibran at the age of 15. Photograph by Fred Holland Day, c. 1898.

Vivi, Away

We went through this together last year, right? Vivi being away at camp during her birthday week? Me not being able to make a fuss over her, all that rigamarole. I’ve been doing a lot better this year. Even when I miss her, I know she is safe and enjoying herself. I’ve had very few moments of panic that she might be curled up under her bed in the tent, crying because no one has told her that they love her that day. I’m cool…really.

But it’s been FOUR DAYS and I had yet to see a photo of her posted in the nightly album of scenes from the day. On the first night, I was slightly alarmed at this picture of my firstborn standing in the center of a pack of somber girls:

They're either learning how to raise the flag or acting out Lord of the Flies.

They’re either learning how to raise the flag or acting out Lord of the Flies.

Then today I made a teensy request (with only a touch of hysteria), because it’s her birthday, for a photo of my girl. The camp director replied “We’re on it!” and soon I was holding back tears at the sight of this beautiful creature:

Love many, trust few, and always paddle your own canoe.

Love many, trust few, and always paddle your own canoe.

Who is this woodland spirit? This daughter of Life’s longing for itself, she reminds me every day that “life goes not backwards.” I may spend today thinking back to the moment she was born, how Daddy reassured me “She’s pinking up real nice” when her Apgar score wasn’t so hot the first time. For me, this day is about then. For her, it’s about TODAY–a crown made from pipe cleaners, a cake to share with her unit, a care package filled with books and glow sticks and confetti eggs. She spent today learning to paddle her own canoe, discovering who she is today and getting ready for who she’ll be tomorrow.

Dancing with Jack

“You want to hop out at the door or do you want me to walk in with you?”

“Walk wif me.”

Carlos is at Extra Special People camp this week, and even though he is comfortable and knows from last summer that it’s a fun place, he still needs a hand to hold when we first walk in.

The first activity of the day at ESP is “Flag.” All campers gather around on the lawn to sing, dance, and brag on each other. It’s pretty loud for Carlos, so he hangs back around the periphery with his coach. I tried to coax him up to the circle, and he managed it for a while, but he kept floating back to the shelter of the sidewalk.

Then along came Jack. I know his mother from work, so I know all about Jack but he doesn’t know me. Jack is autistic and doesn’t speak. He’s not a big fan of shoes, but he does like hugs. His shirt today said, “THUG LIFE – drop the T and get over here!” Jack likes to stay on the move during Flag, so his coach was following close behind him to make sure he was safe.

Jack walked past me, just a few inches away, and I reflexively leaned down to his eye level and said, “Hey, Jack!” As soon as I said it, I thought, “Oh, that’s right…Jack doesn’t talk,” and I scrambled to think of how to communicate with him since talking is kind of my thing. But before I could chase my rabbit too far, Jack looked me right in the eye for a moment and smiled. I stuck out my hand for a high five and got two. Then two more, then low fives, then middle fives, then around the side fives and pretty soon we were both giggling. Then I got a hug from Jack and my heart cracked wide open.

His bare foot scraped across my shoe and caught his attention. Jack turned himself around then carefully put his feet on top of my feet so that we could move together. He offered me his hands and I slowly began to turn in small steps, making a circle in the cool early morning grass. We danced for a little while then Jack went on his way.

I had assumed that I wouldn’t know how to talk to Jack because he wouldn’t talk back to me. But we figured it out when Jack showed me the way–start with love then take little steps from there. “You may give them your love, but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts…You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.”

Thank you, Jack, for reminding me how to make a friend without using any words.

Twilight Rockets

End of the day fatigue led to a parenting mistake: I opened a box from Amazon in front of Carlos without remembering what was in it. Along with a Brandi Carlisle CD for me, I had ordered some Rocket Copters with the aim of taking them to the beach. They’re little plastic darts with wings and LED lights that you launch from a slingshot. They sail 120 feet in the air, spinning/blinking/whistling then plummet down to land on your roof or a nearby tree. Hence my aim to keep them a secret until we were at the beach and had a wide open space.

“Can we do them now, Mama?”

“We have to wait until dark.”

“Is dark now, Mama? When’s dark? Is dark after dinner or after bath? Is dark at bedtime or book time? Is dark now, Mama? How about now?”

I was so tired and so not wanting to have to put on bug spray and shoes to shoot a stupid rocket ONCE before I had to dig out the ladder to climb up on the roof. I hid the rockets in my room in hopes that he would forget about them.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA…RIGHT.

After bath time and before book time, with his wet hair slicked down like Rudolph Valentino, Carlos came into the den and chirped, “Is it dark now, Mama?”

Dark enough, Baby.

We went out to the deck and I shot the first one straight up…and into the pool. While I went downstairs to fish it out (with the LED light still blinking, so these are actually pretty sturdy little toys), G shot the second one…onto the roof.

I stayed down by the water to rescue any that came my way and G stayed on the deck with Carlos to fetch the ones that hit the roof. For a good 10 minutes as night fell around us and the bats flitted through the graying sky, we shrieked and squealed and laughed. After a few duds, Carlos eventually figured out the magic of a slingshot, how the power is in both the hand that holds steady and the hand that pulls back.

Each needs the other to work. “You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.” All this bending that we have to do as parents, it’s so that our children can fly strong and true to the horizon.

Let our bending be for gladness.

carlos tribal summer esp

Ending The Week On An Up Note

On Friday mornings, ESP camp holds “Fair and Flag.” For the fair, each unit sets up a table filled with the crafts they made that week. The vocational class sold granola, muffins, and bread they had cooked (I can testify that all three are delicious). The older teens sold door mats that had been painted with different designs. I got one that has stripes like Charlie Brown’s shirt. The younger teens sold watercolors and Christmas ornaments. I bought the interlocking hearts.

Carlos’ class sold painted canvases–with one decorated balloon cookie thrown in with the purchase. I paid $5 for the one that said C-A-R-L-O-S in the corner:

carlos camp painting

 

Recognize it? That’s Carl and Ellie’s house from the movie “Up.” I would have paid $500 for this remembrance of a fantastic week.

The “flag” part of Fair and Flag is a crazy cheering circle that celebrates the kids and the sponsors and the parents who all pitched in to make the magic. Carlos didn’t like the noise, so we sat off to the side with his counselor, Miss Abbie.

carlos camp abbie

She was dressed like a member of Troop 54 just like Russell in the movie. Carlos counted the twelve yellow dots painted on her face with the tip of his finger. She giggled. He counted all the blue things in her costume. He was so perfectly himself. I finally walked over to join the cheering circle and in a minute, he came and stood in front of me so I could cover his ears with my hands. Abbie told me all the things he’s done this week, like making a Cheerios catapult, singing “Green Machine,” playing in a tent with JoJo (from his preK class!), and telling her all about his kitties, Jinxie and Rufus. He got a shout-out yesterday at Flag for being a great song singer.

Y’all.

He has NEVER talked this much. I don’t know if it’s ESP camp magic or if it’s Vivi being out of the house this week, but his speech has exploded.

(I just had to take a break from typing this so we could have a sing-a-long at bedtime and teach Daddy the “colors song” and pretend to play “kitar.”)

He’s using expressive language, like “I love it there” and “Want to go back to camp.” He’s NEVER reported to me at the end of the school day about what he had done. Now, he talks about the Amanda Show and how she does tricks with rubber bands and he can name five of the kids in his unit.

He’s soaring.

carlos camp us

A Letter Home

Oh, Happy Day!

I opened up the mailbox to find a real envelope with a real stamp…a letter from Vivi at camp!

camp letter3

Before I even took it out of the mailbox, I was asking myself if I should open it right away or wait until G gets home. In less than a second, I decided he would be OK with me opening it right away. So I flipped it over…

camp letter2

And I began to get a little worried that I…

camp letter

NEVER TAUGHT MY DAUGHTER HOW TO SEAL AN ENVELOPE SO THE LETTER DOESN’T FALL OUT SOMEWHERE.

This kid knows how to sign in to her Google account, create docs, save and email them. She does not, however, know that you have to pull the little white strip thingy off the sticky part and smoosh it together.

Or maybe she’s pulling my chain?

Somebody Loves You That Much

I had been OK with Vivi being away at camp…until about 11 p.m. on her birthday. All afternoon, I had been hitting Refresh on the camp photo page. I know they celebrated her day by singing at meals, and her unit had cake, and she got that big pink care package that G and I left for her at the trading post, but I needed to SEE some of it.

The photos went up and within minutes I started crying. Out of 225 pictures, I only found four with her visible. In two, she was daydreaming in the back of a canoe, her paddle vertical in the water. In one, she was walking with her unit but she seemed alone, sucking on her finger. In the best photo, she stood with her counselor:

camp9

Simply seeing her face wasn’t enough for me. Is she happy enough? Does she look like a girl on her birthday? Is she OK? My mind whirled down the path of worry but there was just no knowing.

I hadn’t realized how much I was hoping to see a photo of her giggling with her tentmates or at the center of some shenanigans. I couldn’t stop the tears that sprang from my eyes. G gave me hug and reminded me that she is probably having a blast.

Still, my mom heart kept asking, “Is she happy enough?”

As I went to bed, I could hear anxiety and insomnia creeping up behind me on shuffling feet. It was 11:49 p.m. so I told myself that once the clock turned to 12:00 a.m., it wouldn’t be her birthday anymore and I could put down the whip. While I waited for the minutes to tick by, I remembered a conversation that Daddy and I had about birthdays and birthday cake.

It was sometime last year, probably at Cowtail because my Aunt Dixie was there. We started talking about birthday cake and I told Aunt Dixie, “I still remember the cake you made for Shannon for her second or third birthday–it had pink frosting and daisies with petals made from marshmallows and you had dyed the center of each petal with pink sugar.”

pink flowers

Aunt Dixie laughed and said, “Gosh, I remember that cake! It was a recipe from Good Housekeeping and those durn flowers took me forever.”

“Well, it was worth it because I still think of that cake and how pretty it was. Now that I’ve got kids I understand how much effort it takes….”

And Daddy finished my sentence–“when somebody loves you that much.”

Exactly. That’s what that pink cake covered in sugar sparkling flowers was–a visible way of seeing how much Aunt Dixie loved her daughter. Somebody loves you that much, enough to stay up all night snipping sticky marshmallows and dipping them in pink sugar just to see the delight in your eyes on your birthday.

Daddy used to make me cakes for my birthday. Coconut cakes because they were our favorite. He went to the trouble because he loved me that much.

That memory helped me understand why I was struggling with being apart from Vivi on her birthday–making a fuss over her has always been my way of showing her “somebody loves you that much.”

I looked at the photo of Vivi and her counselor again and my heart was soothed. See that book in her hand? That’s the sixth book in a series that she’s been reading. It was in her birthday care package that was delivered at camp. Look how much she’s read in one afternoon! I couldn’t make her a cake that day, but I gave her something she finds just as sweet.

She’s been gobbling up a story. A book that was ordered for her, kept a surprise, packed in a special pink box with glow bracelets and puppy stickers and a disposable camera and gel pens and a camp bandana…all because somebody loves her that much.

I hope she stayed up until she was finished with the book. She has her green camp lantern, and she has extra batteries. She even has books seven and eight waiting for her at home. All because somebody loves her that much.

Wobbly

When we were on the spring break cruise, Carlos felt the roll of the ship under his feet and got the funniest confused expression on his face. He shouted, “WOBBBBBBBBBBBBLLLLLY!” every time we swayed from wall to wall walking down the passageway. He still says it when he slips and falls or stumbles. Well, his summer has gotten off to a wobbly start.

The camp we were counting on for the first week of the summer was full. Oops. There just aren’t that many options for a five year old who melts down at noise and crowds, so he spent days bouncing back and forth between G’s office and my office. He carried his little Spiderman backpack filled with Matchbox cars, Paw Patrol stickers, and tablet like he was getting paid to do it. I let him push all the elevator buttons and we played I Spy from the glass bridge between buildings at least once a day.

For the second week, we had both Carlos and Vivi signed up for the children’s theater camp that she loves. After the first day, the director reported that he wasn’t interested in doing any of the camp activities. She asked if we could send something to entertain him until he warmed up. The second day he spent face down in his Kindle Fire. By the third day, they emailed to say that he wasn’t ready for that camp and they would be glad to give us a refund when we picked him up. Before lunchtime, please and thank you.

Sigh. I flashed right back to last summer when he was getting sent home from daycare for tantrums. I felt those old fears of “life for him is always going to be difficult because he doesn’t know how to fit in.” He spent the rest of that week at his internship with me.

Seriously…my kid gets drummed out of THEATER camp? Can’t he just be a tree in the big finale?

We were counting on two more weeks of that camp and now the summer plan was crumbling before my eyes. G hustled around and found a spot for Carlos in a Montessori camp for the weeks that we needed. Excellent–the summer was saved!

I mean, how’s he gonna get kicked out of Montessori camp…not composting?

Just in case, we went out and bought this composting bin and it’s Carlos’ new favorite thing. He spins it like he’s calling Bingo at the VFW.

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Dang, that kid is cute, even with his do-it-yourself bangs and that crazy-eye face he makes when he says “CHEEEEEEEEESE!”

Today he went to yet ANOTHER camp. He’s signed up for four weeks of day camp at Extra Special People. His pre-K teacher suggested it and I’m so glad she did. It’s a program “where individuals with developmental disabilities don’t just survive… they thrive!” At first, I thought he wouldn’t qualify–his challenges aren’t really that tough. We’ve ruled out autism and developmental delay. The stuff on his IEP is social interaction. He takes his shoes off when he’s not supposed to. He tunes out talking if it’s not interesting. He hollers if he doesn’t want to go along.

I felt guilty sending my kid to “special” camp when he’s pretty ordinary. Except when he isn’t. I even checked with the camp director to make sure that we didn’t take a spot from someone else. I actually said, “he could survive the Y camp, but he might spend part of the day curled up in a ball.” They assured me that there was a place for Carlos at ESP.

He seems to agree.

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When I picked him up, he was downright chatty! He told me about saying the pledgeallegent, singing Rainbow Submarine, eating lunch, and going bowling! There was a scavenger hunt and circle time and apple slices with peanut butter.

I hope I will always remember how he starts every sentence with “Mommy?” I do think I will always remember something he said tonight. We were talking about tomorrow being tie-dyed shirt day and he said, “Mommy? Today? I love it there.”

Not so wobbly any more.

carlos camp

This Isn’t About Me. It’s the Penguin.

Sooooo…Vivi is at sleep-away camp for the first time ever in her whole entire almost nine year life. Yep.

camp vivi

I’m fine.

Seriously. Totally OK.

But I’m concerned about Pengy.

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He stayed like this the whole ride home.

He doesn’t look like he’s OK with this AT ALL. I think he thinks that she’s growing up so quickly. I bet he thinks that he’s not quite sure what to do with himself without her. I can just look at him and tell that he’s wondering if she’ll ever come back and if she’ll still need him then.

I’m fine, but the penguin is struggling.

Pengy and Vivi have been inseperable since she was about 18 months old. We met Pengy on a trip to the Georgia Aquarium. Since that day, there’s been no other friend for Vivi. He sleeps under her chin every night. He snuggles under her elbow while she’s reading a book. He even sits beside her at the dinner table some nights.

Pengy has been to many cities and a couple of countries. The rule is, Mommy carries Pengy while we travel. We have lots of rules about Pengy–Pengy stays in the car if we go out running errands. Pengy stays home instead of riding to school in a backpack. Carlos is not allowed to touch Pengy.

And she’s gone for a week. Who is Pengy without his Vivi?

When she first started talking about sleep-away camp, the question of Pengy came up–would he be safe in the woods? Was he too old to sleep in a tent every night? Santa brought Vivi a Siamese kitty, which she named Artemis and declared to be her second favorite friend. Artemis went to camp. She’s young and strong and not afraid to sleep in the woods at night.

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Things change, right? Kids are supposed to grow and move on to other stages in life and sometimes we put away childish things. Pengy will always be #1, the original beloved. Nothing can take the place of Pengy. Still. It’s hard.

So yeah. I’m fine. But the penguin is lonely for his girl.

So She Can Live Without Me

On the day my daughter was born, she started living without me. I mean “without” in the sense of “outside of.” Her body began to live without my body.

That day, her birthday, has meant something special to me for eight, almost nine years. It’s the day I became a mother. I’ve marked each year of her life with big parties (there have been ponies involved more than once), but this year is going to be different. It’s got me a little choked up.

Vivi has been wanting to go to sleep away camp so we’ve decided that this summer is her time to try it. I never went to camp, so there’s no legacy here. With the rampant enthusiasm of my friend, Bryn, I found a camp that looks like a perfect fit for Vivi. It’s a camp about leadership for girls. Teaching girls independence and competence. Cooking over a fire, playing in a swimming hole, singing songs together, paddling a canoe, sleeping in tents.

kayak-1199485_1280

All great, all great. But after I clicked the Register button, I realized that Vivi will be at camp on her ninth birthday. I broke the news to her and her reaction was, “COOL!!!!” OK. Maybe it’s just me having a hard time with this.

Planning her birthday party has always been my special gift to her–a way of showing her how extravagantly she is loved. This year, my gift to her will be letting her go. Pushing her in the direction of living without me.

Since my dad’s death, I see the importance of making sure my children can live without me. I felt something similar after Richard died–I only had grief, not struggle on top of the grief. My husband was dead, but I knew how to do the taxes and change the outside flood lights and check the air pressure in my tires. I only had to learn how to live with missing him, because I already knew how to live without him. Same with Daddy–I miss him, but I still know everything he managed to teach me about living. He didn’t do things for me. He taught me how to do them myself.

Last night, I asked Vivi, “Is there anything about camp that worries you?”

“Not making friends.”

My heart seized up. What if that happens? What if, even though I know the counselors know how to make sure everyone has a good time, what if my little girl spends a few moments sitting on the edge of her bunk feeling alone in the world? GULP.

“Well, I don’t think that will happen, sweetie. You make friends everywhere you go. If you do find yourself feeling apart, be kind to someone else who might be having a tough time. The best way to have a friend is to be a friend.”

“Or what if I make friends then I have to leave them when camp is over?”

There’s that too, baby. There’s that too. “You’ll be able to see each other at camp next year!”And then I went to my room and cried a little bit with fear for her. But she’ll learn. She’ll learn to tell herself these things when I’m not there beside her. The only way for her to learn that she can navigate the world on her own is to let her live without me.

We spent Easter Sunday in the woods at Cowtail, riding ATVs and slinging mud around. I’ve never been comfortable driving the ones you steer with handlebars–I like driving the Mule because it has a steering wheel, a brake, and a gas pedal. The kids love the Mule because we can pile all of them in the back and go caroming over stumps and rocks, weaving through trees and plowing through mud holes. The kids have to wait until one of the adults will drive them.

carlos mule

Victoria rode shotgun with me for a couple of trail rides. It was tough driving in the rain. We had to remember to keep our mouths shut while hitting the mudholes at full speed–mud gets EVERYWHERE when you’re hooting and hollering. She’s never driven the Mule but she’s sixteen now and knows how to manage a steering wheel, a brake, and a gas pedal.

I gave her a little push and she tried driving it. She wouldn’t let the Littles ride in the back–it had to be just the two of us. And she may have pruned a sapling or two on the tight corners. But she did it.

After a while, I relaxed enough to look out at the scenery, which I never get to do when I’m driving. I saw dogwood trees that nobody planted, just blooming in the woods in the rain. I saw chunks of pink quartz peeking up from the earth. I saw 20 colors of green.

Victoria learned how to enjoy the Mule without me and that gave me the opportunity to sit there beside her, fully present.

As we ground our way up Rock Hill, she said, “I can’t wait to bring my kids to Cowtail. It’s cool to think that they’ll be playing with Grant’s kids and Jake’s kids and all the cousins.”

That’s family. Growing into that fine balance where you know you can stand on your own but you never have to be alone. With and without.

victoria mule