My Kids’ Camp Re-Entry Period

Coming back from camp means loads of laundry. (Photo courtesy Wendy Goldman Scherer)

My baby, Max, is 15. Well, almost 16. When he asked to go to leadership camp for five weeks this summer, we agreed, with the caveat that he pay a portion of the tuition. After all, we all appreciate things more when we have skin in the game, right?

We drove him five hours north to Lake Como, Pennsylvania, in the Pocono Mountains. He’d packed a huge duffel bag, a sleeping bag, some stamps and stationery. The teens learned how to lead meetings, how to communicate with parents and community, how to lead social action. They learned how to motivate their peers. They bonded. My son had an amazing, all encompassing and life-changing experience — so much so that he did not have time to write home. Did I mention there was no cell service? I did not hear from my child for five weeks. Five weeks!

The camp smell is definitely not a smell that translates to home. It needs to be eradicated.

It was a little odd being so out of touch, I admit, but I truly believe that the separation was extremely healthy and wonderful. And while I would have liked a letter or two, my husband and I have worked hard to create independent boys who we hope and pray will become independent, happy and fulfilled men. And this feels like a step toward all that.

When he came home on Sunday, we were overcome with joy. We’d missed him. A lot. And then? We were overcome with laundry.

Everything was damp. I mean, everything including two sets of sheets, a gaggle of towels, socks and boxers, sweats, jeans… you name it.

And it smelled like camp — in a good way. Do you know what camp smells like? It smells like… camp. Sorry, you know the smell, or you don’t. It’s not a bad smell, but it’s distinctive. And it’s definitely not a smell that translates to home. It needs to be eradicated.

Dealing with the pile of laundry was a two-day affair. I couldn’t help but smile as I sorted the darks from the lights, the heavy from the light. I uncovered the sweatshirt he wore when he was captured in a hug with an old friend on Facebook and the gaggle of t-shirts he traded with boys from chapters all across the country. I don’t recognize everything that came home in his duffel, like the friendship bracelet, the ceramic chai, a Wilson ProStaff 7 Iron (seriously, a golf club?), and boxer shorts of unknown origin.

Since he has been home, my sweet little boy has been doing his chores with a lot less prodding, joining the family conversations with a little more gusto, and he might not know that I’ve noticed, but I see him engaging with his big brothers differently and having conversations with them about music and life and college and choices rather than seeing him nod his head in submissive agreement, as I had witnessed for all the years leading up to now. He stands a little straighter and speaks with just a little more conviction. But, that’s not all that changed. He’s also a little bit taller, a little bit thinner, a little bit tanner and a little bit closer to being a man.

As a mom, I’m so proud to see him grow into the young man I’ve always hoped and knew he could be.

And at the same time, it’s impossible to keep from tearing up when I think about how soon he’ll be packing up to leave to blaze his own trail. Five weeks felt like a long time, but before long it’ll be all summer and then all semester and then… I can’t even type it. It’s all good, but it’s an adjustment and I think I’ll just enjoy the here and now and consider the summers as practice for now.

And I’ll happily do his laundry while he’s here.

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