My 13-year old son is at Boy Scout Camp this week. It’s his first time ever to go to camp. He has been on weekend camping trips with his troop and I’ve joined him on a few of these excursions. However, on his only week away from home without the parents, he was with his grandparents. This hardly qualifies as getting out on his own. He couldn’t go to camp last year, because my wife and kids went to California to visit her parents for a month. He’s been dreaming about Scout camp ever since.
A lot of prep work went into this trip. My wife, admittedly, did most of it. She made sure he was packed and ready. I only realized how well my wife had packed things when I dropped my son off at the meeting place on last Sunday morning. Many of the kids had their sleeping bags on their trunks. My son had his “in” his trunk. This job was also confirmed by one of the older, more experienced scouts. When my son opened his trunk to toss in a troop t-shirt he received that morning, the older scout looked inside and uttered a soft “Wow!” I watched him climb into the SUV of one the Scout leaders and leave. And now that he’s away, I’m dealing with the feelings I have.
One of the things the adult scout leaders prepped the parents on was how to talk to the kids before the trip. The one item they were adamant about: Don’t tell the kids you’re going to miss them. The kids are going to be busy. (My son is taking five merit badge classes while he’s there.) However, there will be some lonely feelings. Letting your son know how much you’re going to miss him will compound his feelings by mid-week. Being away is difficult for the kids anyway. Just tell them how much fun they will have.
I did my best to adhere to this rule. Sometimes it was hard. We talked about the work he would be doing. We talked about him needing to pay attention in his classes as well as the pay attention to his Scout leaders. Another thing we talked about, though, was money. There is a camp store and the kids can get things there. We give the money to the Scoutmasters in one dollar bills. They boys then get $2-$3 each day, if they want it.
The last thing I did was to give him money for lunch on his trip to camp. The plan was to stop for lunch at McDonald’s before they checked in. I gave Andrew $5 for his usual happy meal.
“Dad, I can’t do that. I need to do something else.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“I can’t get a happy meal. They come with toys.”
“The other kids will laugh at me if I get something with a toy.”
I smiled. He was right. I gave him some extra money and we discussed some other menu options, so he could make a quick decision.
And I’m glad I gave him the extra money.
The troop took a last minute vote and chose Wendy’s. It’s more expensive.