Camp Week = Life Lessons

It’s been over a week since we experienced our first week of camp, and I’m finally feeling like I can come up for some air.  Wow, who knew that having two kids in different camp sessions, and one in nursery all while I was volunteering would take so much out of me.  Thankfully, we gained so much more from our experiences than the energy we lost with being on the go.

To set up the scene for the week:
Parker was in Spotlight Youth Theater Camp which is an organization that focuses on  “Reflecting Christ Through the Performing Arts” from 9am-3pm.
Ryann was in Preschool Arts Camp which focused on God’s creations through the arts from 9-11:30am which is also where I was volunteering.
Garrett was lovingly cared for in the nursery at the church.

Mom’s life lessons learned:

Lesson 1: Planning and organization are ESSENTIAL in pulling off a week like this with 3 kids.  I would start my day by working backwards in time from when I needed to be in the van with all the kids buckled knowing that there would be traffic getting downtown.  I know the commute there and back is 20-30 minutes each which means if Garrett & Ryann do not eat lunch before we head back home they will fall asleep in the van; therefore, lunches need to be made and ready to eat at the church following camp. Packed lunches take some time to prepare.  The night before I lay everything out from clothes to lunch boxes and have the water bottles filled.  (I save the lunch prep til morning though.)  I wake up an hour before the kids to get myself ready, make lunches and have breakfast ready when they get up.  We eat, potty/change diaper, change clothes, brush teeth and are out the door!  No traffic, we are early…Day one=Success!

Day 2 does NOT follow suit.  I sleep 15 minutes later because day one went smoothly.  Garrett wakes up early needing tended to before lunches are made.  Ryann hollers from her bed before the toddler clock is green and needs to go pee.  I’m not ready.  We eat breakfast while I’m still trying to make lunches.  Garrett has a poopy diaper.  I’m rushing and break a glass dish…shards of glass fill my kitchen floor.  Everyone HALT!  I clean everything up…we are now late…Garrett poops again.  No one brushes their teeth and we get in the van…today, there is traffic.  We were 15 minutes late, but no one noticed…except for the kids, as they got the brunt of the unplanned, unorganized and frazzled Mommy!

Now I imagine there are going to be LOTS of mornings like this in the fall as I begin to figure out what life will be like getting 3 kids out of the house to walk one to school 5 days a week.  yikes!  Hopefully I can continue to plan and organize to make sure we have more successful mornings than not.

Lesson 2: Crying is NORMAL. Now you would think since Parker went off to camp for a full day away from Mommy that he would be the one crying right?  Nope, it was me!  This was the first eye-opener for me that the social aspect of parenting was going to be hard.  Since the younger two and I were having lunch after our camp ended, we would see Parker at his lunch time.  On Day One, he grabbed his lunch (super excited b/c it was the first time in his new superman lunchbox), sat down, opened it up and started eating.  Sounds good right?  Well, this is when I started to worry…here sat Parker, all by himself.  My gut sank, my heart thumped and my palms were sweaty.  He couldn’t see me, he didn’t know I was watching, and there he sat, totally content eating his lunch by himself while others ate in groups.  I continued to ignore the scenario and fed Ry & Garrett.  Our family pastor came over to talk to me and said “how’s he doing”…and I lost it…the tears were flowing.  He comforted me saying “You know this is normal, right?”…to which I replied “which part…me crying or him being alone” and he said “both”.  You see, anyone could attend this camp, and the majority of them were from other church campuses so Parker didn’t know anyone in his camp.  As the week went on, I observed this every day…Parker would grab his lunch, sit down, open it up and eat happily, but still alone.  He would ask his teacher to open his yogurt or show her his treat for the day, but never really mingled with other kids.  On day four, something was different, he sat down with his lunch, opened it up and grabbed something out and just sat there…he looked around, put everything back in his lunch box and moved over to a group of kids to sit with them during lunch.  This was the “normal” part our family pastor was telling me about…Parker learned about courage.  He took it upon himself to move into a group of kids and joined in on the lunch conversations…this is when I cried again.  It wasn’t much, just a few tears as I was really proud of my boy!

I’m just grateful I was able to observe this and hopefully it’ll be less of a shock to me in three weeks when Kindergarten begins.

Lesson 3: Identifying strengths vs. weaknesses in our kids.  This was the biggest lesson I learned this week.  Now, this doesn’t mean that I’m always pointing out weaknesses in my children.  But what it does mean is that I think I have tried to connect my weaknesses to my children when that just might not be the case.  So, the example above with Parker at lunch time, was something we talked with him about every day…he didn’t seem bothered, camp was fun, and he was excited to go back every single day.  I was in the backyard playing with the kids one day after camp, and our neighbor was visiting with me about the camp. I was telling him about Parker and the situation, and how I was sad for him…and he said “why?”, my reaction was “because I don’t want him to be alone. I am afraid it may take him a while to make friends in school.” He response made so much sense to me, “but he is confident on his own, isn’t that a good thing?  You have instilled confidence in him that he isn’t afraid to be independent.” That point from an outsider looking in, made my week.  It helped me see Parker’s independence as a strength…one that will probably continue to build his confidence in all areas of life.  I can definitely say my self-confidence wasn’t as strong as Parker’s at 5 years old.

Parker’s life lessons learned:

Lesson 1: Lunch time is too short.  “Mom, they never let me finish my lunch.” and “Fruit roll-ups take too much time to open and eat them.”.  Looks like I need to limit his lunch time at home so he gets some practice eating without playing and talking too much.

Lesson 2: Scheduled potty breaks are important to take. For the first two days, I would pick up Parker at 3pm and he wouldn’t have used the restroom since 8:30am when I had him go before camp started.  He has always had some holding power, but he was dancing by the time I picked him up.  He now knows the importance of using the scheduled potty breaks.

Lesson 3: Money for snacks = junk food.  In the parent notes of the camp instructions, it said we could send $0.50 for snacks.  My assumption was that they weren’t allowed to take the time and get into there lunch boxes middle of the morning or afternoon.  By day two Parker was complaining of a stomachache.  As I asked what he had throughout the day, I found out that his morning snack was a 6 pack of Oreo’s day one and a bag of Doritos on day two.  I definitely give my kids plenty of junk food but nothing on a regular basis let alone in the morning.  Parker realized on his own that a granola bar was a much better choice…to avoid the stomachache.

Lesson 4: “True friends are the ones who don’t tell on me.” This one was a self-learned lesson.  Parker had said the word “butthead”, yep, my kid uses naughty words every now and then, especially when he doesn’t think mom or dad will hear.  Parker told me he said the word while he looked at another kid, but he wasn’t calling him names.  This young boy wanted to tell on Parker, but the little girl sitting with him said, “we shouldn’t tell on our friends, he said he was sorry, and I don’t want him to get in trouble.”  Thankfully Parker had a good friend sitting next to him, hopefully he will remember this scenario and return the favor sometime.

Lesson 5: I might be a little shy.  Parker participated in a showcase on the last day of camp.  While all the other kids were jumping, waving to their Mom and Dad’s, he just sat there and wouldn’t even smile at Chris or I.  The production went on, he danced and sang, but with not too much reaction to anything else going on.  Each group would go up to the microphones for their skit and as Parker’s group stepped up, he was still sitting.  I knew his line as we had practiced it that week and I knew it was coming up…I felt helpless as he was still sitting there.  20 seconds went by which felt like forever and his little friends start yelling “Parker, it’s your turn…Parker, get up here”…he slowly walks up there and with an angry look stands at the microphone like he’s not going to say anything and then quickly says his line “wait, you heard that”…below is a quick video of it.  Parker said afterwards that he had fun but maybe it’s just that he’s shy sometimes.  I’m sure it had a lot to do with first time stage jitters!

We all had a blast at camp and learned so much.  I love that I’d ask Parker every day what he was doing and he’d tell me they played games and sang songs.  Not once did he mention that he was dancing and then at the showcase on the last day he dances the choreography to 3 songs. I’m sure there will be a lot from school he won’t be telling me too…I’ll have to get used to not knowing everything and being okay with it! We all learned a lot during camp week…mostly what to expect when Kindergarten starts in just 3 weeks.