Mom Fail? My Kid Hated Camp

I know, I know… I haven’t blogged in six months (exactly), but who’s counting?

I could attribute it to a lot of things… depression, motherhood, pregnancy, lack of motivation… The truth is, though, LIFE IS FREAKING BUSY! And every little excuse I could use for abandoning this page is something that, in the grand scheme of things, just adds up to nothing other than life- as we know it.

However, I got really prompted to write today by my four-year old son… 

You know from the sidebar, or from previous posts, I’m a mom of three (soon to be FOUR!!!) precious kiddos. Two are biological and one is step. Guys, my step-son just turned 11. I might need help with pre-teen issues here soon! (Lord forbid.) All of the kids are so different, and always have been. These usually make for funny stories to tell other people but, this week, Ezra’s “difference” just broke my heart.

As mentioned above, Ezra is four. He’s so smart and sarcastic, loving, and curious. But, for the past couple of years he has been battling shyness in public. At home, he is 100% opposite than if you saw him out at the library or the grocery store. Even if we see our friends out and about, he turns away from them and won’t speak. In the privacy of our home, he is rambunctious and loud, just as you’d imagine any four-year old boy to be.

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My husband and I have attributed his outward silence, when we go places, to be inherited. My mother-in-law is an introvert, as am I, and Jon was so shy in Kindergarten that he went the entire year saying as little as he possibly could and was eventually put into a speech therapy class. Though Ezra is a million miles away from needing speech therapy, the cat clearly has his tongue in community settings.

Here is normally where voices, like my mother’s, will chime in and say, “That’s why he needs to go to preschool. He needs to learn to be away from you. He’s going to have to deal with people at some point. You won’t always be there.” {FYI, I never went to preschool.} While I would normally agree with most of that… I’ll also gladly send a bill to whomever wants to cover the cost of preschool in my area. I would, quite literally, have to get a job just so the second income could pay for the childcare– his, and my others. Which, sadly, isn’t uncommon amongst moms in my region. Part two of the problem is that most of the preschool programs are the same length, or longer, than a public school day and are five days a week. The last thing that I feel is best for my very reserved child is to dump him off at a strange place every day, all day long. Nevertheless, I decided to test the theory.

My step-son, Noah, has grown up going to camps, after school programs, and day care since he was about two. While, at first, my husband relayed to me, Noah didn’t want to go, he quickly go used to it and looked forward to it. To this day, Noah doesn’t know a stranger and looks forward to any and every type of social activity. So, I though maybe signing Ezra up for a half-day camp, close to home, running for five days, would be a good idea. Especially, since I was familiar with the establishment because Noah had gone in the past. Something fun to get excited about each day and hopefully help him out of his shell a bit around other children his age. Not to mention, he does great on the occasion time we take him & Charlotte to drop-in care when we don’t have a sitter.

Monday, the first day, he seemed fine at drop-off. I had signed him up a month early so that I could hype it up and make it sound cool, hoping that would pay off in him enjoying it. He said his goodbyes and, while he was a little timid, seemed like he was going to settle in just fine. And, when I came to pick him up four hours later, he told me he had a great time. SUCCESS!!… or so I thought.

Tuesday, was polar opposite of the day before. He started crying before breakfast was even over, asking me if I could stay and play with him, or if Noah or Charlotte could. I tried to be really calm and talk to him about the rules of the camp and that Noah was going to a camp for older kids so he couldn’t stay either. But, by the time I was walking out the door of the facility, he was screaming, crying, and being restrained from following me by staff members. As soon as the door shut behind me, I was bawling. Yet again, though, at pick-up he told me he had a good day and even played with another boy his age. YAY!!… Wednesday should’ve been a breeze, right? Think again.

Wednesday was field trip day and I knew that Ezra was looking forward to going to Bounce. However, nearly as soon as he woke up, he was begging me to go with him, crying, and telling me he was going to be lonely. I was at a loss and wanted to tell him he could stay home but, I knew how much he was going to love being on that field trip. Plus, four hours never hurt anyone, did it? So, I walked him in, sat him down for a snack with the other campers, and by the time I came back, he was all smiles and ready to tell me about his day.

That brings us to today… Thursday. I thought today might be easier for him because lots of the other kids were going to go on another field trip for the entire day, which meant less crowding and more of a chance for relaxed play…etc. He wasn’t going on the outing because he is only a half-day camper. And given how well the last two days had gone, despite the heart-breaking goodbyes each morning, I figured he’d be willing to give it another go. The week is almost over! WE’VE GOT THIS!….NOT.

Again, sitting at the time, with a mouthful of mango, Ezra asks, “Why do I have to go there so many times?” I couldn’t find a reasonable answer… Not one that really made sense to me. Yes, I paid over $100 for this camp. Yes, it is only for five days and I’d really like to get my money’s worth. But, I have a child who is in front of me and literally pleading with me not to make him go. For the third time. And, truthfully, it’s not school. It’s not a requirement. So, I made him a deal… He had to come with me to drop Noah off at his bus-stop for farm camp, go to camp today, but he wouldn’t have to go tomorrow.

Secretly, I was praying that when I picked him up today he’d have had some sort of great experience and ask me to take him back in the morning. Alas, he said he built a fort and played alone and that he is sure he doesn’t want to go back for Friday.

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It troubles me to no end to see my son, who I know to be bright and adventurous, quite despondent about something that should’ve been a fantastic experience. I wanted, so badly, for it to be an intriguing thing that he ranted about when he got home, like my friends’ kids’. The fact that it wasn’t makes me feel like I did something wrong. Like, I have somehow instilled in him that he should be withdrawn around others. Maybe I chose the wrong kind of camp or maybe I didn’t build it up as much as I had expected.

So, I guess that’s the question here… Is the fact that my kid hated camp my fault? Is there some level of failure that mom’s have reached if their kid doesn’t have fun with his peers? Or do I just chalk it up to the fact that it’s a phase and he will grow out of it eventually?

Either way, I feel like I did right by him; telling him he can skip out on the last day. He at least tried and I can’t be upset about that. I do hope, though, that, one day, everyone else can see the Ezra that I see. Because he’s a really awesome four-year old.

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