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  From the
  Camp was hard on me, and I wasn't even there
Two days after my son left, I did the unthinkable. I called
  Sharon Dunn,
National Post

AH, THE JOYS OF SUMMER CAMP: the swimming, the deep water, the bugs, the danger ... maybe I should call ...

'Why didn't I put my son in camp?" I fret every year about this time, as I enviously watch other parents with nights free to explore the city, days free to pursue their dreams, weekends free to lounge in their yards with tall cool drinks in their hands -- no reason to move, save to pick up and read heartwarming letters from their kids in camp who, by the way, are always "having a ball."

And here I am spending many of my summer days and nights in ice hockey arenas with my son, who has decided to get ready for the new season. Don't worry about him -- he's not interested in camp. He's as happy as a cold, wet clam, but I know there are more satisfying ways of cooling off. Trust me, it's an odd feeling to go from 30-degree weather into a sub-zero skating rink.

But it wasn't always this way. Luke once yearned for the camp experience. So, and it doesn't seem that long ago, we decided to give it a try. Two weeks, we agreed, was plenty long enough. Other parents, true adventurous types, seemed to have no trouble sending their children away for two months every summer, some leaving the day after school ends, not to return until Labour Day weekend. We know their real motive, don't we? But we were starting slowly. I enrolled Luke in the trendy camp of the day, "before all the spots are gone," I was warned, which is incredible in itself when you consider the high cost of these very basic camps.

We merrily said our goodbyes at the bus depot, until I noticed campers and parents alike sobbing hysterically. And these were the repeat campers. You'd think they were going to war. What do they know that I don't, I wondered.

My heart sank as my son smiled bravely and travelled into the realm of the unknown. The mothers who had been crying the most quickly dried their eyes, and waved happily to me as they sped off in their cars.

But I didn't fare as well. I watched the kids' bus turn the final corner and then went home to a very empty and quiet house where I sat and worried for two days, and then I did the unthinkable. I called the camp. This is usually absolutely forbidden by camp officials, and I had been warned, but I was desperate. I needed to see how he was doing -- in other words, if he was still alive. After a number of calls that turned into pathetic pleas, I finally received a call back from someone who had actually met my son.

"He's so sweet," she assured me, "but I only saw him once, the day he arrived."

"What do you mean you only saw him once?" I gasped. "I thought you were his counsellor."

"I am," she said, "but I haven't seen him lately because he's on a canoe trip."

"Where?" I managed to spit out.

"I don't know," she giggled again. "Somewhere in the Muskokas. He should be back in a couple of days." At this point I was blubbering senselessly. Finally she seemed to notice the fear and dread in my voice.

"Don't worry," she said lightly, "they'll be OK. They took lots of Smarties with them, and the kids looking after them are really fun."

"Smarties, the candy?" I stammered.

"Yes. Lots," she confirmed. This was supposed to ease my fears? I hung up, more desperate now than when I had called. Maybe I even went to the Muskokas and rented a boat for the day, going from shore to shore searching for him with my binoculars. Of course, even if I did that, I would never admit to it, since it would make me look like a total lunatic, but let's face it, separation anxiety is a powerful emotion. I spent another two nights tossing and turning, as I pictured my then seven-year-old being eaten alive by mosquitoes, or who knows what.

After threats and intimidation (on my part of course), I finally got the news from camp that I was yearning for: He had returned from the canoe trip -- alive! "And such a good sport" I was told (whatever that was supposed to mean). I still wasn't permitted to speak with him.

With renewed hope, I counted the days until pick-up and, on the final day, showed up a couple of hours early, not wanting to tempt fate. I was even invited to stay for lunch, which turned out to be something that vaguely resembled Kraft Dinner -- although not nearly as tasty. My macaroni lunch was the pièce de résistance to all those sleepless nights and to finally seeing my burnt and bitten son. This is what I had paid country club prices for?

So, though I might think I'd like to have my son in camp this summer, I really don't think I could survive it again. You know, hanging around the hockey rink all summer isn't so bad after all.

  Last update: May 6, 2009
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