It’s finally here- camp week at school. From the time the email announcing the venue and details arrived from school, there has been a non-stop volley of questions, instructions, lists and what not from my little one. We have prepared our camping name labels , neatly labelled every item from torch to toothpaste, used our Iron on labels on everything from socks to raincoat. From shoe labels to bag tags, we have seen through the entire value pack of labels such that even our pet dog’s collar has a slim label stuck on it!!! We have packed and unpacked and packed again numerous times, out of excitement. And then the panic messages from the moms on the grade WhatsApp group start!!
I get it. For many parents, sending kids away over night or for 3 nights is a big step. Most of the time the kids are giddy with excitement at the prospect but sometimes a parents anxiety passes easily to a child and makes them nervous being away. But after 7-8 years of sending both the boys away every year, here’s what I learnt.
1. The biggest take-away from going camping is the sense of independence the kids learn. No mommy or Didi to pick up dirty socks or fold away the night suit. They learn to do things for themselves and actually enjoy being able to do simple tasks.
2. They often get over their fear of the dark. First they have physically exhausting days that by the time they hit bed, they are asleep in minutes. And secondly the sleepover with friends is so exciting, everyone puts on a brave front for the other of not being afraid and eventually they come to realise there really is nothing to fear.
3. They learn the joys of train and bus travel. In the privileged and increasingly alienated urban lives we lead, the joys of night journey by train, antakshiri in the bus – left aisle vs right aisle, are simply not possible unless you are travelling in a group like for school camp.
4. Sibling affection becomes evident. While they fight non-stop when together, when they go away on camp in separate schedules, my one son can’t stop talking about the other. My older one will constantly wonder aloud what the younger one must be doing and will do something small like tidy his book shelf up or neatly arrange some scattered toys. The younger one will refuse to go for s special meal or movie with us that he doesn’t want the older one to miss out on. As a parent, I find that endearing and heartening and even if they don’t admit it, they miss each other tremendously.
5. It’s okay that they don’t bathe for 2-3 days. I’ve had the boys come home from various trips with nightsuits untouched- they slept in what they were wearing all day, changed without bathing, lived in one pair of track pants. Whatever the case maybe, they come back so full of stories, experiences and incidents that dirty knees and grubby faces are almost like battle scars to be proudly proclaimed.
Pack the kids off and take a breather. They will be fine. Enjoy the kids free time you have been gifted. Go on that dinner date with your spouse. Catch up on movies with girlfriends. Be ready to receive your kids in 2-3 days time looking a little scruffy and just a little bit older and maturer.