We got back today from picking Nate up after two weeks of sleepaway camp. What an emotional mixed bag these two weeks were!
Nate was super-excited about camp all through dropping him off. We had a great time touring the camp but he was obviously ready for us to leave. It was very poetic; as we finished our picnic and he made a friends, he dropped by for a final goodbye. His new friend Cayden waited while he hugged each of us - as he finished up Cayden said "Come on, Nate! Let's go!" and they walked off together without looking back. So fabulous.
Then we didn't hear from him for a week and the camp posted some nice photos so we were pretty content that he was content.
Then *the* letter arrived: I love you Mom. I miss you Mom. I cry for you every night Mom. I want to come home.
Ugh. A huge punch in the gut. I called the camp to ask how to proceed and they said the director would check on Nate and get back with me. He called back quickly and reported that he'd spoken to Nate and that he was definitely homesick but also having a lot of fun. The director didn't feel that Nate was in crisis or needing to be picked up in any way. So I crossed my fingers and resigned myself to leaving him there for another week.
We got a slightly better letter, very sentimental, appreciating the care packages and letters and saying how much he loved me and wanted to come home, but also that he was having fun and had made a lot of friends. That was a little better. He also mailed my parents a letter and Stewart's parents, along with Aunt Deborah.
Saturday morning we woke up super-early to go pick him up. Pickup time was 10-noon and I wanted to be there at 10 to make sure Nate wasn't seeing other kids being picked up and sitting there forelornely. We got to camp around 10:10 which thrilled me. Jack River was with us, so he got a chance to see the camp for the first time. We walked through the woods and past the dining hall, turning the corner to head to the bunk area. After a few feet we saw him - out in the clearing, tossing a ball to himself. We walked for about 20 seconds before he turned to us and I waved my arms in the air to him, probably a little frantically. He dropped whatever he was holding and ran full-on at me. I threw my purse down and ran to him. At the last minute I pulled up; the kid's pretty big at this point and he was running at full speed!! I grabbed him and we both started crying. He's not much shorter than me at this point, it's amazing.
We spent a while together and then we walked around the camp so he could say goodbye and also show Jack around.
This is my kid: he wrote five letters. He took his vitamins. He brushed his teeth. He washed and conditioned and brushed his hair. He wore sunscreen. He ate from the salad bar (though he said he should have done it more, that he ate a little too much junk. I told him that you're supposed to do that at camp.) He kept his things organized and packed himself up really well. He wrote in his journal almost every day, sometimes a list of activities but mostly the same thing: I miss you mom a lot, and I want to come home. Ugh. He did the Polar Bear Club - getting up early five mornings in a row, putting on his bathing suit, completely submerging himself in a cold stream, getting out into the cold air, and getting dry and dressed for the day. Nobody in his bunk did even a single day of it; he did all five. I told him how impressed I was, and he told me he had wanted to make me proud. I told him I was always proud of him. I asked him how he felt about trying something new and then sticking with it, and he told me "I was thinking about perseverance." He's eight years old.
Nate, I'm always proud of you. I think you're so cool, so put-together, so mature, so funny, and so sweet. I think you have the world at your feet. I can't get over your goodness and playfulness. Keep being you. If you want to go back to camp, I'll make it happen. If you don't want to go back to camp, we'll find something else for you. I think every kid wants to make their parents proud and I won't try to take that away from you. But I love you and I'm proud of you whether you go back or not. Whether you Polar Bear Club or not. It's true that I'd rather you do it than not. It's true that I want you to take risks and put yourself out there. But I promise: I love you any which way. I couldn't stop loving you if I tried. You're my heart and soul and you always will be.