The One About Sixth Grade Camp.

On Monday morning, we packed our 6th graders bags into our van and headed off in the pouring rain to school at 5 in the morning. It was the day he would leave for 6th grade camp.
When I was in 6th grade, I wasn’t allowed to go to 6th grade camp. (“You only want to go to chase the BOYS!”) I was one of 5 kids to stay behind. I hated every minute of that week. And I hated the following week even more. I had to listen to everyone talk about how much fun it was! The campfires! The songs! The plays! Ugh. I always said I would never deprive my children of such experiences. So when we moved to a new school district last year and found out there would be 6th grade camp at the new school, there was no question in my mind he would go. If he wanted to go. (Which, of course he did.)
We were all excited about the trip– it was the topic of dinner conversations pretty much every night. And then over the weekend, we went shopping to get everything he needed for the trip. Flashlights, rain ponchos, disposable cameras, water bottles and so on and so forth.
“Are you excited?” I’d ask him. Every 5 minutes.
“I’m so excited, Mom!” He say. Every time.
And as it got closer, he’d add “but I’m also nervous.”
“Why?” I’d ask. “You’re going to have so much fun! No need to be nervous.”
“But I’m going to miss home.” He’d say.
And I’d fight back the tears and try to be strong and say something supportive like “We’re going to miss you too, but you know what? The time is going to fly and you’re going to have so much fun, you won’t miss us once you’re there.”
Then, I’d hug him.
On Sunday night, after we packed everything and double checked the bag at least 20 times, I kissed him good night, shut his door and went straight to my room to write him a letter.
You see, every time my children leave to go on any kind of a trip without me I write them a letter and tuck it away in their bag where they’ll find it when they unpack. It started as a way for me to deal with the emotion of sending my boys on a trip without me, and ended up being a tradition that they love and look forward to.
As I was writing his letter, I began to get nervous. This was the first trip he’d go on where he wasn’t with a family member. This was the first trip in which I WOULD NOT HAVE CONTACT WITH HIM FOR THREE ENTIRE DAYS. It was the first time I felt apprehension about letting him go. Up until that point, it was like “it will be a great experience! He’ll have wonderful memories to carry with him for the rest of his life!” I think it’s natural to be nervous and feel over protective when your children are going to be out of your care. The trick is to know when that fear is warranted and when to take a deep breath and let them experience and enjoy life.
After I finished the letter and tucked it away in his bag and headed off to bed. Four hours later, I was kneeling by his bed, whispering in his ear.
“Wake up, dude. It’s time to leave for camp!”
He opened one eye. “Already?”
“Yep. Why don’t you go eat breakfast. We have to leave in 20 minutes.”
The morning went by smoothly, because for the first time in maybe EVER, I had everything ready to go. There was no frantic running around the house saying “BUT WHERE IS THIS? AND WHERE IS THAT? AND OH MY GOD I CAN’T FIND THAT ONE THING I REALLY NEED.” I think I need to try the whole “Being Organized” thing more often.
We arrived at the school at 5:20. It was freezing cold and it was pouring rain. I could tell The Boy was excited, but also nervous. I did my best to assure him he was going to have the Most! Fun! Ever!
“I know I will.” He said. “I’m just going to miss home.”
(My heart! It hurt!)
Once we entered the multipurpose room, there were what seemed like hundreds of kids in there. He found his friends and they all gave each other fist bumps and secret handshakes while they laughed and talked about the trip. I knew in that instant he was going to be just fine.
When it was time for the kids to get on the bus, I hugged him, kissed him and said all of the motherly things to him “have fun! Be careful! Stay with your group at all times! I LOVE YOU!”
“Love you too, Mom. Love you Dad.” He said and then he disappeared into the big yellow bus.
The entire drive home, we talked about how much we were going to miss him, but how thrilled we were that he was going to have this awesome experience. But after I got home and the hours passed by, I begin to dwell on the fact that I won’t be able to have any contact with him or be able to see him for 3 ENTIRE DAYS.
I finally cried.
All last night, I kept turning to Tony and saying things like “do you think he’ll be warm enough tonight?” “Did we pack him enough socks?” “What if he hates the food and is hungry?”
And today, I’m missing him something FIERCE. Maybe I’m a freak of a mother, but I’m not liking this whole “not being able to talk to my kid at least once a day to make sure he’s okay” business. Deep down, I know he’s fine and that he IS having the experience of his short little life time, so I take comfort in that.
Luckily, it’s only a three day trip, so he’ll be home tomorrow. I don’t think my heart could stand an entire week of this.

29 thoughts on “The One About Sixth Grade Camp.

  1. Y

    AH, don’t even start with that.
    The Teenager has only 2 more years of high school. Like, I don’t even know how to begin to process that.

  2. jessica

    last summer my son went on his first camping trip without me. He was in cubscouts for 5 years and i went with him on every camping trip, even summer camp. i love to chaperone those trips. But last year, he moved up to the boyscouts. i didn’t have enough vacation time at work last year to go on the camping trip… 7 days and 6 nights. he was with people i have known for years and people that i trust. but i missed him TO DEATH. i did pretty good until about day 3. then i was ready for him to come home. of course, being out there, he could not call or anything. when he got home, he told me all about it. Then…. he told me about how he was homesick by the second day. I felt awful. but then he told me about how his friend was homesick too and that his friend’s dad was actually there. the kid missed his MOM! apparently, the dad talked to them about it and by the 3rd day they were both fine.
    and guess what?!? he had a blast and it WAS an experience to last a lifetime.
    so don’t worry, missing him is all part of the process. you’ll be glad he went and he will thank you for it forever.

  3. Mahala

    Aww hon.. when my kidlet was 17 and I took her to college for the first time (and 18, 19 and 20.. thankfully she graduated) I went through the same thing. Now? She’s back up in my house, eating up all the groceries and suckin’ up couch space.
    Do they make summer camp for GROWN children?

  4. Y

    It’s totally normal.
    Its’ just when you’re actually living it– like, actually unable to talk to your kid and missing him, it feels all kinds of wrong.
    Does that even make sense? haha

  5. Nina

    well, you’re better than I am because I seriously doubt I’d ever let my kids go on any kind of trip like that. I’m WAY too overprotective of them.

  6. Jenera

    My mom used to write letters and notes to me too. It was something special I’ll always remember and do with my kids too.
    I’d have been crying the instant the bus pulled away. We let our boy go with his grama for a week and I was a mess. I did call at least three times a day and I still missed him something fierce. but remember when he comes back how wonderful it will be!

  7. Kay

    You are preaching to the choir! I am sending my only son off to war in a matter of months, I too cried when he went to 6th grade camp, now I wish he was just going to 6th grade camp! I am not trying to diminish your fear, God no! I was just like you, it’s just weird how your perspective changes with each little event in life. Kindergarten was hell for me..HELL!!!!!!!! Btw! LOL I had the same “first time without family or anyone he knows taking care of him” and that was just for 8 hours! OK it still makes me sniffly alright! 😉

  8. Angel

    Oh my gosh my pregnant and just normal mom hormones combined with your story have me sitting here crying! Sixth grade is still 3yrs away for us and now I am thinking about finding a school that does not have the 4 day camp!!
    Hormones aside, I agree he is having a great time and the memories he is creating he will have forever. You’re such a fantastic mom, everytime I read about your kids, I just say that in my head over and over again.

  9. Chris

    My sixth grade camp was so amazing! It was the first time this girl and I…um…caught…a…fish…and frieditupinthepan. Yeah, that’s what we did.

  10. gladcow

    I cry every year when my kids leave for camp. The boy has been going for three years and the girl went this past summer for the first time. The boy was all worried about me when I started crying when the girl was at camp and I explained that I was fine, this happens every year, he’d just always been at camp! It is SO hard for me, but my kids love it SO much.

  11. Debbie

    I feel for you. Truly. My oldest (14) went to Boy Scouts 3 years ago and thus began the weekend camping once a month without us. Then that first summer where he did the weeklong summer camp in the mountains – no contact at all, and it was during this birthday! I cried so much that week – missed him terribly. Now it’s 3 years later, and I still miss him terribly when he travels without me; he’s in a marching band that travels to competitions. It’s hard to be a mom sometimes.

  12. Kris Herbst

    (((((((((((Y)))))))))))) That’s so great that you know how important it was for him to get to go! My parents let me have those experiences growing up and I’ll be forever grateful. My Aunt (age 89) says those are the life experiences that make “soft pillows” in your old age. So true.

  13. justme

    Don’t feel bad Y, my son is going on his 8th grade trip in the spring. I am a mess just thinking about him being gone, with not a family member, for a whole week. In another state, hours and hours away. Sigh.

  14. Marcy

    Take it froman old lady…
    The first field trip (without me) Sucked
    The first Overnite trip (without me) Sucked
    The first Time they take the car keys and get into a car and drive off (without me) Sucked
    The first day you unpack thier crap at a collage dorm and drive away Sucked
    but nothing …and I mean nothing SO FAR sucks as much as saying good bye at an airport…as your kid leaves for another State… cause they couldn’t find a job in your cold, crappy, autorelated state… That my friend… is major suckage..
    Yeah.. Motherhood, From breastfeeding on… it is all about sucking….

  15. Lora

    *sob* *cry* My son is only 5, and I’m already sad about things like this. You did good mama, and I’m going to steal your letter idea.

  16. Jeanette

    Both of my kids went to 6th grade camp and they LOVED it! At our camp, any kid who gets more than 5 letters for the week had to kiss a moose head that was hanging in the mess hall. Of course, I made sure that both of my kids kissed that moose!

  17. amy

    oh i can so relate. our camp here is in 5th grade…i was so very happy to see my dear daughter when she got home!

  18. patois

    They do it in 5th grade here. My son was excited but very nervous last year. I was an inner wreck but was ALWAYS! SO! POSITIVE! outwardly. He had a blast. Blossomed. My daughter goes this year. If she thinks of us once while she’s gone, I’ll be shocked. (But I’ll be just as much a wreck again.)

  19. Karla

    Something about writing a letter really resonated with me. Goosebumps really. I hope you don’t mind if I borrow that idea. It’s sweet and compelling and such a kickass mom thing to do.

  20. Suzy Q

    6th Grade camp? For realz? I have NEVER heard of such a thing! I was in private school at that time; maybe it’s a public school thing? Or a northern or western US thing?
    I can’t imagine something this fun-sounding happening in this day and age, what with all the liability waivers and consents and warnings that go into everyday life. I mean, you can’t even bring a peanut within 1500 feet of a school or you get arrested, right?
    I hope he has a GREAT time and does at least one thing that he can’t tell you about until he’s an adult.

  21. JL

    I always do the “tuck a note” thing in my husband’s suitcase when he goes out of town.
    Sometimes I put pictures in, too, lol.

  22. baseballmom

    I went to 5th grade camp with T, because they needed volunteers for the girls’ cabins. It was SO FUN, and I hardly saw him, but it was the experience of a lifetime for those kids, and every single one of them LOVED IT. I did cry when he went to first grade though…

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