So we made the commitment to send our 7 yr old son to Ontario Pioneer Camp for a week of sleep-away camp in the summer of 2013. We had been to Pioneer Camp as a family in the springtime and knew what a great place it is and how awesome their staff is so we knew this would be a good place for his first camp experience.
As time got closer I began to panic about him being away for an entire week when he’s never been away from us for more than one night and generally his little sister is with him. What were we thinking? Why didn’t we send him with a friend or cousin? He was so excited to go so cancelling due to my panic and worry was not an option.
In the end, he was going and I knew that what I needed to do was to make myself feel at ease about him going. How does a Mom do this? Prepare, prepare, prepare!
Now I know some of you will laugh at this, but one of the main things I was concerned about was him wearing the same outfit the entire week. Really would it harm him if he did? Well, No but I wanted to give him the option to wear fresh clothes if he so chose. So I went out and bought x-large Ziploc bags and in 7 of them I packed a pair of shorts, t-shirt, socks and underwear. Voila, all he had to do was pull out a new bag each day! By the way, the camp counsellors loved this!
Because he is such a Mommy’s boy (or so I tell myself) and he can be a wee bit on the emotional side, I was worried that he would be terribly homesick and wonder “What? They actually left me here? What were they thinking?” Every time the phone rang that week, my stomach jumped as I was sure the camp was calling to say he missed me. Nope it was always somebody wanting to clean my ducts! So assuming the worst I needed to prepare him to deal with his home sickness should it occur. So here’s what I did:
– Packed his favourite stuffie wearing “camp clothes” so he could be one of the campers and would be there for him to hug if need be
– Had friends and family write letters so he would have a letter from home to open every day from somebody he loves
– One of my Twitter followers suggested I send him with pictures from home so I made him a little book of pictures with little messages under them
Being a picky eater, I figured he would either starve or learn to eat new things. But just in case, I stocked him with money in the tuck shop so worst case scenario, he could eat chocolate bars and iced tea all week. Thankfully he didn’t starve and we actually got money back from the tuck shop but it was nice to know he had the option. By the way, he thinks Pioneer Camp makes the BEST chicken. Ahem, i’ll have to get that recipe.
Knowing they would have some downtime, I bought him a new book, as he’s an avid reader, and some fun magazines that he could read.
Lastly I packed him a camera and notebook so he could take pictures and write about his camp adventures.
So after all this preparation, the week at camp is over and we go to pick him up. He runs over to hug us all and then runs back to his friends. Uhm, hello? It’s me Mommy!!
Here’s how it all pans out:
– The clothes packing went over well and he wore everything.
– His teddy bear was a cabin favourite and he got along well with the other stuffies
– He ate a ton and actually gained 5 lbs,
– His notebook had a small scribble in it
– His books were unread
– Somedays he forgot to open his letters had to play catch up
– He looked at his picture book once.
Needless to say he had a BLAST at Ontario Pioneer Camp and probably would have stayed another week if we’d have let him. My worrying and preparation was not necessary but yes I would do it all over again and probably will next year.
It was hard to let my baby go but I know he made great memories, had so much fun, stepped out of his comfort zone and in the end that is all that matters
Thank you again to the staff at Ontario Pioneer Camp from the bottom of my heart for making my boy’s first camp experience an awesome one that will keep us coming back year after year!