We decided last summer on the spur of the moment that the kids were ready for summer camp. At that time, we had been planning to move back to the States after this school year ended and we figured the timing would be perfect – we would take a cruise thru the Baltics (which we did) as a goodbye Europe trip and then the kids would go to camp for 3 weeks while we got the house back into working order to move back in before school started in September.
Well the best laid plans… you know how it ends. The Baltic Cruise ended up not being a “goodbye Europe” tour but instead was an “introduction to Northern Europe where you will be spending the next several years” tour. And so camp instead became the “I need to pack the rest of our stuff and move it to Amsterdam” part of the summer.
I will admit I was a little nervous about sending the boys to 3 weeks of overnight summer camp. As I kid, this is not something I could have ever done. But these guys are so much stronger than I ever was. And both expressed a desire to go. Though as the time grew closer I could tell they were ambivalent – I don’t blame them!
If anything, we figured this would give them a chance to be closer to nature (after almost 5 years of city living, there was very little country boy in either of them – in fact, Aidan freaked out when he saw an ant at my parents’ the day after we arrived in the US), gain some independence, meet some new kids and get to enjoy the freedom that goes with no one constantly saying “don’t do that”, “don’t touch that”, “stop hitting your brother”, etc etc.
We did some research on camps but in the end we decided to send them to Camp Wekeela in Hartford, Maine. Why? Because it’s the same camp Josh went to as a kid and to this day, he still tells stories about his times spent there. And while it would cost us an arm and a leg, to hopefully give the kids those kinds of memories would be worth it.
My in laws came with me to drop the boys off and I’m glad they did as the expected 3 1/2 hour drive ended up taking 5 1/2 hours. Yes, an extra 2 hours. I was stressed because it was a one hour window drop off. Turns out that the one hour window was really just a “guide”, kind of like the mandatory must ship your bags up to camp to the tune of $200 so we can unpack your kids before you get here, kind of thing. And no, their bags weren’t unpacked, in fact, we couldn’t even find Aidan’s for a good half hour.
We got to camp and I just have to say wow… this place is amazing. It was all we saw in the pictures and more. I felt really good about leaving them here and knowing they would be in good hands. And while I thought the drop off process could be a little better organized, I knew they would be having the time of their lives for the next 3 weeks.
But despite the long drive and the bag issue, the moment the kids got to Camp Wekeela, they were so excited. We found Liam’s cabin first and he immediately claimed his bunk. Liam was the one I was most worried about – he still isn’t the best at wiping his butt (he’s going to love reading this years from now), he struggles getting dressed and he tends to be a bit of a wanderer. He also embraces his inner baby and isn’t the most independent. Yes, I was worried about what this would be like for him. But at the same time, I knew he needed this opportunity to see what he was capable of and to let him shine.
We found Aidan’s bunk which was on the other side of camp from Liam’s. He had fewer kids which I think worked for him. Within moments of us finding his camp bag, he was ready for us to leave. My little boy is all grown up. I am so proud of how independent and confident he was as we left him there.
Thankfully I had signed up for a service that allowed us to download pictures that the camp posted on their secure site as well as send unlimited emails to the kids. That didn’t mean that they got to email us back. The emails were printed out and put in their bunks and then they could handwrite a message back which was then scanned and emailed back to us. It was NO technology for them for 3 weeks. It was good for them and they survived!
And so Josh and I looked daily at the pictures – the ones with Aidan were full of smiles. The ones of Liam were iffy – some smiles and some moments where he looked… lost. But overall, he looked like he was having a good time. We sent them messages but not too many. Maybe 2 per week. And they each sent a few back, short but sweet. Aidan did send one that made me feel a little unsure about if he was having a good time or not, but in the end, he said he had a blast. And while Liam looked lost in a few pictures, Aidan said he was actually quite popular, though he did often fall asleep in random places. I’m sure that with all the constant stimulation, sports and late nights, the poor kid was just exhausted!!
As far as favorite things from camp – Aidan said his favorite sport was building fires. I reminded him that building fires is not actually a sport. Liam’s was soccer. They both loved the color wars which was made up of the green team (their team) and the white team and there were challenges over the course of several days. Their team won!