Happy Campers

Last summer we found out that our local community college offers a summer camp where kids ages 6-11 can take some classes.  The program is absolutely amazing.  They offer everything a kid could possibly be interested in, and they make it so fun that the kids don’t really even realize that their learning things too.

Last year when Brendan chose his classes I wasn’t really surprised by the choices since they all seemed to be right up his alley.  He’s always been interested in the United States so 50 Nifty States seemed the perfect choice; doing science experiments interested him greatly and since the volcano experiment class was full, experiments with the brain seemed logical as well (they even got to dissect a sheep’s brain at the end of the week and while I find that gross he found it fascinating); and Brendan loves to help out in the kitchen so he took a basic cooking course as well.  Brendan came home every afternoon bursting with excitement over the things he’d done and learned that day, and after the week long camp was over he couldn’t wait for the following summer so he could do it all again.

Being much more experienced this summer, I looked for the program sooner and was able to get my kids registered the first day they offered it so that way they could each take the classes they wanted instead of having to settle for what was left.  I knew that both Brendan and Cameron would be able to do the camp this year since Cameron had turned 6 this spring.  What I didn’t know was that this year they decided to add in a pre-school program for little campers.  For about half the cost of the boys camp, Kaylee could go for the same amount of time and basically play with kids her own age for a week.  And as I’m always looking for ways to get her into social situations it seemed perfect.

The boys and I poured over the class offerings and tried to decide what they would take.  There were a few of the same classes from last summer that I knew Brendan wouldn’t want to repeat, and there were plenty of new ones to choose from as well.  This summer I thought I knew my kids well enough to know which classes they would pick, but I was wrong about both boys.  They chose classes way different than I had expected.

Both boys chose a class called Math on the Move which basically incorporated math and exercise into games.  They also both wanted to take a class called Ocean Explorers and learn all about our oceans.  To be completely honest that one sounded boring as can be to me, but they both swore up and down that was the class they wanted to take.  For his third class, Cameron chose to do one Brendan had done last year:  Experiments with the Brain.  I tried to explain to him that he’d be cutting open a sheep brain at the end of the week and that I wasn’t sure he’d like doing that but he said after listening to Brendan rave about it last summer he wanted to do it too.  Brendan, who is in the middle of reading the Unwanteds series at the moment, has learned a lot about acting from his books and therefore chose to take an acting class for his third class.

All of these decisions and camp registration took place back in April.  The invoice for camp came about a month later and I had until the day before camp started to get it paid for.  As happens so frequently in our household, I intended to get the invoice paid the week that it arrived.  But life got in the way and the week before camp was slated to start I realized that I had not yet paid that bill.

The very day that I got the information together and picked up the phone to call and make my payment Cameron suddenly decided that he didn’t want to go to camp anymore.  After some prodding and prompting he admitted it was because he was too scared to go.  Matt and I both tried talking to him and made an effort to convince him that there was nothing to be nervous about.  Nothing worked.  No matter how many times we tried he was absolutely convinced that he didn’t want to go.

After some private discussion, Matt and I decided to pay for his camp registration anyway.  We figured once he got there that Cameron would really enjoy the camp so we decided to force him to go.  As the days ticked down to the start of camp I pulled one more rabbit out of my hat.  Cameron is the world’s pickiest eater.  There is almost nothing I can put on the dinner table that he won’t complain about.  I sat him down before my grocery run that week and said that if he promised to go to camp like a big boy and try his very best at it that I would buy all of his favorite foods to serve for dinner that week and that he wouldn’t have to sit through any meal that he didn’t like.  That sealed the deal.  He was willing to go and do camp if it meant no yucky dinners for a week.

All was well until the night before camp started.  As I was tucking Kaylee into her bed she looked up at me and said she didn’t want to go to camp because it would be too scary.  She was a little easier to convince than Cameron.  I promised her that I wasn’t taking her to a scary place and that we’d be going to a big school just like the boys elementary school.  After making me promise 3 or 4 times that we weren’t going anywhere scary she lay down and drifted off to sleep.

The next morning I woke up dreading how this was going to go.  I had two kids that had at one time or another decided they didn’t want to go to camp.  Was I about to embark on a complete waste of money?  It wouldn’t be unprecedented.  Back when Cameron was 3 we enrolled him in ice skating lessons and he spent over half of the lessons sitting on the bench refusing to skate rather than learning to skate.  Swimming lessons were the same thing.  He’d get as far as the pool edge and dangle his feet, but refused to get into the water and learn to swim.  And that’s not even taking into account the birthday party that he refused to stay at because he was too scared.

Brendan was really no better at 3.  We enrolled him in soccer at that age and every single week it would be a fight to get him into the car to go to soccer, then it would be a fight to get him to go out on the field and play soccer, and then it would be a fight to get him to leave because he “loved” soccer so much.  Between him and Cameron we swore that we absolutely would not be putting Kaylee into any activities until she was at least 5, but here I was getting ready to take her to camp at just 3 years old.

We arrived at the school and got the boys’ schedules.  They make sure all of the classrooms are clearly labeled and give parents sticky notes to stick the kids’ schedules to their shirts so that if they forget where they’re supposed to go they have a written reminder.  It was at this point that Cameron started to get a little nervous again.  As I walked the boys to each of their classrooms I showed Cameron that Brendan would be right next door or just down the hall for all of them.  He looked a little relieved at that, but it wasn’t until Brendan stepped up and told Cameron he’d help him get from class to class that Cameron looked truly relieved.

I was so proud of my big boy.  Most days he treats Cameron like the crud on the bottom of his shoe, but every once in a while he will take his role as big brother very seriously and make sure that Cameron is well taken care of.  The boys came out of camp that first afternoon and true to his word, Brendan had escorted Cameron to every single class.  And with that little helping hand Cameron was able to relax and enjoy himself.  He came home that afternoon bubbling over with excitement about all that he’d done and learned.  Brendan was happy with his class choices as well and, as they’re taking two of the same classes, they were able to spend the car ride home comparing notes about what they’d done in those classes (they’re taking them at different times as they keep the kids separated by age group)

Kaylee, on the other hand, was a whole different story.  I should have known better than to worry about her.  Back when I took her to her first day of pre-school in February she had the gall to give me a dirty look and ask me why I hadn’t left yet when I pulled out my phone to snap a first day of school picture.  All thoughts about the “scary place” had gone by the wayside overnight and she was anxiously pulling on my hand to get me to take her over to her classroom.

There were so many people signed up for the pre-school program that they’d put together two classrooms.  There was a little confusion over which classroom Kaylee should be in (because her teacher had the wrong list) and each moment that we worked through the problem Kaylee was certain that she wasn’t going to get to stay at camp.

When we finally figured out where she was supposed to be I gave her a hug and a kiss and told her to be good.  She barely gave me a backward glance as she dived right into the toys that were laid out for them to play with.  And when I picked her up that afternoon she was mad as could be and stood there bawling, refusing to leave, because she was having so much fun she didn’t want it to end.

All in all my kids are very happy to be in camp this week and all of them are already talking about which classes they want to take next year.  Brendan is quite sad because for him it’s the last summer he qualifies to go to this camp, after that he’ll be too old.  With elementary school coming to an end for him he’s finding out that there are a lot of things he’s going to have to give up because he’s getting older.  But that is another story for another time.

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