St. P’s fourth graders always make an overnight trip to CYO camp in the spring. Given L’s troubles with sleeping over at other people’s homes – she’s had one successful sleepover ever and shown no interest in trying again after her most recent meltdown last summer – I knew I would have to go along with her. Since M and C have both gone there multiple years in the summer, and always raved about their experience, I was moderately excited about the trip.

We headed down first thing Thursday morning. We totally lucked out on weather. In the last 20 minutes of our drive to camp – which is located about 90 minutes away, and 10 minutes from our old lake house – it absolutely poured. There were lightning strikes seemingly feet away from the highway. The mom who rode with me and I started wondering what the hell we were going to do if we were stuck in the cabins all day with a bunch of bored, hyper kids.

Fortunately the storm passed just before we arrived at camp and it didn’t rain again in our 30 or so hours there. It was, however, very muddy. Camp is built into some very hilly terrain and there were little rivers of run-off all over.

Three other parents and I had a group of 11 kids. Luckily for me two of the parents are good friends, so we could share snarky comments with each other. Our activities for the first day were canoeing/kayaking in the camp’s little pond, working on the circuit course of suspended ropes and wires, and archery. No canoes or kayaks were tipped over, no one fell off the circuit course, and no one was pierced during the archery. Solid day.

M and C have both told us how great the food at camp is. I’m not sure if they’re just so hungry in the summer that everything tastes better to them, or if being part of the last group of the school year meant we got whatever they needed to clean out of the freezer. Most of the food was pretty bad. Thursday night our dinner was “pulled pork” sandwiches. Not sure the “meat” was actually pork, and it certainly wasn’t pulled. It was a crumbly, tasteless mess that really didn’t resemble anything I’ve ever had before. Fortunately the salad and fruit bar was full of fresh items. The parents mostly loaded up there.

When bedtime rolled around I was hoping L would be so tired that she would just pass out. We were sharing a large cabin, but with the boys/dads on one side, girls/moms on the other. Bathrooms were in the middle and the sides were not open to each other. A couple of the moms know about L’s issues, so they were looking out for her. I hoped that would help, too. But at 10:45 I got summoned out to the front porch and found L there sobbing. I asked her what was wrong and she shrugged and said, “I don’t know!” This has become the routine on attempted sleepovers: whatever it is that stresses her out – nervousness at being away from home, general worrying, anger at herself for not being able to relax – gets her super wound up but she can’t articulate what the problem is.

I hugged her and told her she was in a safe place with lots of people who loved her. But, I said, we could not go home, I couldn’t sleep in her cabin, and she couldn’t sleep in mine. She was going to have to figure it out. I hugged her awhile longer, told her she could do it, and sent her back to her room.

We were trying to get the boys wound down at the same time. Official lights out was 11:00. My bunk was near the front door of the cabin. On the opposite side of the cabin was a heavy door that led to the bathrooms. For about the next hour someone opened or closed that bathroom door every 3.5 seconds. And every time I heard it open, I thought it was a mom coming through the front door to come get me because L was melting down. So I couldn’t relax and go to sleep, either. I tried listening to a podcast, but I brought my old bluetooth earbuds that die quickly, so that didn’t help. I yelled at a few boys who were acting like fools, but that didn’t help either.[1] I think it was well after 1:00 before I could relax and go to sleep.

Friday morning, as people started trickling out of the cabins, I asked moms how it went. Both who I talked to said it was rough. L was crying, could not relax, etc. One of them, who had tried to host her last summer, laid with L awhile but couldn’t get her to settle down. Finally L crawled in bed with one of her friends who also hates sleepovers and they talked until around 1:00 before they finally drifted off.

Oh, that reminds me, the other big event of the first day was one of L’s friends talked her into letting her braid her hair. As we headed out for the campfire portion of the night, all the boys and girls and parents were giggling and laughing when L came out with braids. I don’t think her hair has been braided in at least five years. I got a couple pictures and in both of them you can see kids in the background with incredulous looks on her face. She seemed to be ok with it, although she was pissed Friday morning that she couldn’t find her brush and had to leave them in. Something must have clicked, though. She asked S to braid her hair before we went to a birthday party on Monday. And Tuesday she woke up early so S could braid her hair again. She appears to have turned over a new leaf!

Friday we had three more activities. We played “camouflage,” which is basically hide and go seek although the seeker had to keep their hand on a tree. Hiders had 30 seconds to hide, when the seeker gave up they had 20 seconds to re-hide, and then if anyone was left, they had 10 seconds to be the first to touch the tree to take over. Parents joined in and this was pretty fun. I was always an all conference caliber hider so I enjoyed this.

We also had a craft session and did some pond ecology stuff that kind of went awry. I think our counselors were a little checked out with the holiday weekend ahead and summer camps starting in two weeks. Their enthusiasm level was a little low.

Our group was pretty good. We had a couple of the more troublesome kids, but these are kids with emotional/behavioral issues rather than little shitheads.[2] I can handle kids with legit issues way better than kids that are just dumbasses. We did have one kid that kept insisting he was ready to go home, faked getting sick, complained about walking up any hill, etc. A couple of us took turns dealing with him.

After lunch the kids played a couple more games, which included three kids absolutely wiping out in a muddy spot, and then packed up and headed home. Three of the four girls in my car were asleep before we were back on the Interstate.

I think L had a good time, other than the sleeping part. I asked her if she wanted to go back for a week in the summer and her eyes got big and she said, “NO!” thinking I was being serious. No way would we try that. Maybe she’ll figure out the sleeping away from home thing in time to go to college in eight years.

  1. L told me over the weekend, “All the boys in my grade are scared of you!” Nice!  ↩
  2. Shithead is a great word for kids who act out. C’s class is full of shitheads.  ↩