Not A Happy Camper

Last month, Little M received the “most enthusiastic” award from his pre-k teacher at his preschool graduation ceremony. She said he brought “an energy and special sparkle” to their classroom every day. I was beaming with pride.

However, of the words I would use to describe my son’s disposition when leaving for his second week of day camp this morning, neither “enthusiastic” nor “special sparkle” come to mind.

Not only did he cry hysterically the whole way there, he then refused to go inside the building and begged me to take him home.

I almost gave in and took him back home after about ten minutes of tears and protests but then his camp teacher came along and promised to let him play with the iPad during free play time. He reluctantly decided to give in, since he’s kind of obsessed with video games of any kind. Thanks for passing that on, Big M!

Please don’t think I’m a monster for making him go to camp during his summer vacation, even though right now I feel like one. While I admit I did it partially because I feared that having both kids up my ass nonstop for 75 straight days would drive me clinically depressed and/or insane (again), I honestly thought he would get used to it quickly and be loving camp by the second week.

Boy, was I wrong.

After I dropped him off, my heart was heavy with the guilt of having talked him into doing something he didn’t want to do partially for my own benefit. So a little while later I decided to risk looking like a pedophile in stealth-mode and creep super-slowly past the camp’s playground with my windows up to see if the kids were playing outside– if I could catch a glimpse of Little M on the monkey bars or playing tag with some new friends then perhaps I could liberate my conscience and reassure myself that I’d done the right thing by leaving him there. Sure enough, the kids were all outside, running through the sprinklers, playing hopscotch, and having a total blast. Well, most of the kids were.

Little M was sitting on a bench in the corner all by himself, looking like his puppy just died.

What’s that sound you hear? Oh, that’s just my heart breaking into 40 billion pieces.

I learned a new interpretation for the word “restraint” today, because it took every ounce of restraint in my entire body not to immediately throw the car in park, snatch my baby off that wretched playground and never look back.

Why didn’t I just do that, you ask? Well, when Little M started school two years ago, he was also miserable at first. Crying, bargaining, refusing to go, the works. That smart little mofo even used to lie and say his stomach was hurting so that they would have no choice but to call and make me pick him up.

But eventually, as expected, he began to enjoy going to school. He actually started to look forward to going and seeing his friends every day. Added bonus for me? I got to enjoy doing my grocery shopping in the morning without being tempted to leave my children alone in the candy section until I finished checking out.

His pre-k teachers were not at all kidding about Little M’s enthusiasm; he really is a silly, fun, happy, energetic, sweet, crazy little boy. But the problem is that he just doesn’t do well in new places or around new people, a characteristic he admittedly gets from me. When I was a child and my parents put me in camp, I used to cry so much that they usually broke the rules and put me in the older groups with my sister and brother just to shut me the hell up. I refused to eat, to make friends, or to participate in any activities at all. I was a camp counselor’s total nightmare. Come to think of it, I’m surprised someone even bothered to jump in and save me that time I fell into the deep end of the pool….

Luckily for Little M, he and my introverted younger self differ in that sooner or later he WILL warm up to camp and his true, amazing personality can emerge and help him make some new camp buddies. I just don’t know how many more tearful mornings we have to endure until that occurs, and this guilt I feel may drive me to give in before it does. It also may drive me to drink before noon, but that I can live with.

Is it just me, or is this whole “parenting” thing getting harder and harder every day?

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