Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Camp - On Our Own

Yesterday, I spent part of the afternoon on a phone interview. At the end of the call, I was offered the opportunity to be a counselor at a heart camp for kids in Southern California. This is the same camp our son, Cam will be going to this summer. The plan was that I would go too, volunteer, work with other kids, all while spending time with him. That however, is not going to happen. There are rules, policies, about parents not attending the same camp session as their children. It interferes with the process, the intention of the camp, which is for the kids to find themselves and build up their self esteem. While, Cam is extremely independent, when he is scared or confused, the first person he runs to is me. So, understandably that would keep him from learning to rely on and trust himself, at least at camp it would. So, I will be going to camp a week after him to act as a camp counselor for 8 teenage girls.

Cam was, to say the least, not pleased. I explained that he won't be the only scared child, traveling far away from home without his parents. There will be 7 other kids in his cabin, as well as 4 counselors, and a medical nurse. Cam will be busy from sunup to sundown. I know after he gets over the initial fear, he will, as he does with everything in life, wholeheartedly embrace the experience. I full expect he will come home and ask when he can go back again. I fully expect that he will be touched in ways he can not yet understand. That being surrounded by 100 other kids who have experienced the same surgeries, traumas, fears of dying at such an early age, will change his life and perspective forever. The choice is his to make and he stated without reservation that he still wants to go.

So come August I will take him to the airport to join 40 other kids. I will let him go, knowing he will return to me full of stories, adventures, fun, happiness, perhaps a few tearful moments. He needs to go and so do I, just not with him. I can't wait to have him tell me all about camp and then get on a plane myself a week later and see the camp through my own eyes. The volunteer coordinator asked me what will be the biggest challenge for me and I told her not getting too emotionally attached. I know I will also be touched by the kids I will meet and counsel. My perspective will change, be enhanced, my world will be better for reaching out to these kids. Somewhere deep inside of me, I need to know these teenagers. Maybe, I hope, I will see little bit of my son in all of them. Perhaps, I will have a deeper, broader hope for the future that lies ahead of him.

Most importantly, I want more than anything to give back. To share and touch these kids lives the same way the counselors and campers will touch my sons a week earlier. I know one thing for sure, I will miss my son. I will miss him when he goes and I will miss him when I am there by myself, without him. It was not the original plan, but perhaps it is a far better plan. We each will get to have our own experience and adventure, separately. Then we can come home, compare, enjoy, and look forward to the next year. Honestly, I am just as scared as him. I have never been away from home by myself either. Every time I have traveled alone, there has been a friend or family waiting on the other end for me. There's a first time for everything and I have a strong suspicion Cam will not be the only one that comes out of this experience a stronger, changed person.

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