Camp cramps

There are all sort of parents in this world, and you see them at the school camp drop off.

Those who are whooping their way out of that bag drop, punching the air and screaming “Look out silence, HERE I COME!”  They wave enthusiastically at a tinted window their child could be behind (but who would know), knowing everyone is going to love this little break.  As they smile kindly at a tearful mother and feel they should place a gentle arm around her shoulder, they are trying really hard to think as quietly as they can – “YES! SLEEP IN’S, WINE FOR DINNER, NO WEE ON THE TOILET SEAT, BED AT 6PM, AND NO SOCCER PRACTICE WOOHOO!!!”

There are those who are late for the bus – and they are the ones who are never, ever late, apart from this day. Somehow in the lead up, whilst packing for an 11 year old on a commando course (because we do that all the time),

commando outfit
“I think this outfit is perfect for a commando course”

trying to think of how to combat travel sickness in absentia, trying to teach them about the importance of a shower – with soap, or teeth brushing – at all, packing 5 lots of thermals in case it’s cold in Coffs Harbour, and then implementing the crash course in karate should anyone be mean to them, school camp for these parents is the final tug of the lace bringing everything unravelling. Nerves – 1, Mum – none.  They are running to roll call, they are sitting three abreast on the bag to try squaaaaash it in on top of 100 other suitcases, sleeping bags, pillows, back packs and giant teddy’s. They reach up a hand with a kiss on it to a disappearing cheek up the bus steps, and they say “I love you darling!” to the closing doors.  

Then there is me. We have been packed for weeks, so I didn’t have any callouts for new trakkies at 10pm last night – or that’s what I’m telling you, anyway.  We have had conversations, trying to be casual and not frightening, about safety – of friendships, of personal stuff, of health, and of looking after the precious person that is you, my child. We have talked about whether, because “Undies” is not on the packing list it means they are not needed.  We have worn in the “old shoes” we had to buy. We have discussed what you can eat if the bus stops at McDonalds (as all our parental fear-mongering about the place comes back to bite us on the bum).  And we have planted spy’s in Coffs Harbour with fresh fruit, vitamin C tablets, his bedtime teddy’s, a nice fluffy doonah and perhaps, just maybe, a getaway car.

I don’t take lightly to my child being away from me. For a week (yes, four days is a week). On the other side of the country. You are very well taking my heart right out of my chest and driving it away on Forest Coachlines.  

You are very well taking my heart right out of my chest and driving it away on Forest Coachlines.

I do know he’s going to have an amazing time. I do know this year 6 camp is the “coming of age” camp.  But am I ready for him to come of age? No. He is just fine as a not-teenager. So, bring him back. I can just see his beautiful face as he goes into the indigenous preschool with all the gorgeous little kids – I know already this bit will touch his gentle, gentle heart and change him for the absolute better. But he is the BEST already, so, bring him back.  I can hear him, as he rock climbs, bushwalks and surfs, laughing confidently with friends – a place he has worked hard to get to. He is confident now, so, bring him back.

Because until you bring him back, I am half a person here.

But I know if you do, he will be the half a person. I have to let him grow up. Little by little, I have to let him go.

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Man-sized Sandwiches

By Carly Rae.

It was my first day of school in a small, country town in Canada. I was five years old and it was lunch-time, which would later become my favorite part of the day.

All the children were excited to see what their parents had prepared for them, and what sugary treats might be enclosed. I can vividly remember my classmates placing their brightly coloured Sesame Street and Flintstones’ lunch boxes on their desks.  I, on the other hand, pulled out a plain, brown paper bag. brownbagThen all the other kids opened the lids to reveal neatly wrapped sandwiches, cut into tiny, perfectly shaped rectangles. I opened my brown bag and pulled out, not one, but two man-sized sandwiches, uncut, with the crust still on!

Before taking on the monumental task of eating my lunch, I jealously watched the other kids explore their cute, Tupperware containers. I was surrounded by teddy bear cookies and star shaped watermelon pieces – with the seeds removed. In my bag I found a whole packet of large chocolate chip cookies and two, large, unpeeled apples. I started to think that maybe my father had switched our lunches by accident and had given me his food for a 12 hour shift at the steel factory. That thought was dispelled when the same meal was provided for me the very next day. And the day after that. And the day after that.

I did not want to hurt my father’s feelings by telling him that he provided far too much food for my small, Kindergarten frame, or break it to him that no one at school had lunches like mine, so I kept my disappointment a secret. Being a single parent he tried to take on both parental roles in the house. For the most part he did a fantastic job. However, there were times when he made mistakes as any parent does; like sending me to school with my dress on backwards, or with lop-sided ponytails sticking out of my head, or giving me chocolate cake for breakfast. Actually, how could cake for breakfast possibly be considered a mistake!

Despite these little hiccups, Dad was always there for me. He made sure he attended every school concert, play and parent-teacher evening. He was the only father who volunteered to read with the children at reading time and would happily attend school outings to museums.

My dad encouraged me to pursue everything I wanted. He made me feel that I could achieve anything I dreamed of in life. With his guidance and with the help from his babysitting brothers, I learned to understand men. I learned skills that most girls missed out on. For instance, I was the only teenage girl at school who knew how to change the oil and spark plugs in her car. I learned to catch snakes, kick a ball with precision and, of course, learned how to drive much earlier than any girl I knew.

I believe that families are diverse. Every family has a different set of morals, values and traditions. Family really is where the heart is, not just what we expect a family should look like as depicted in a magazine photograph. I live far from the small Canadian town I grew up in, but I still happily go home to spend time with my Dad as often as I can and our bond remains stronger than ever.

Looking back now, I realise that those unique packed-lunches taught me a lot about life. I learned to be polite and appreciative of people and what they do for us. I learned not to worry about what others think and to be confident in my own individuality. By the second term of school, I would proudly eat my man-sized sandwiches because I knew they were made with love. This was reinforced every day when I found the note at the bottom of my lunch bag, scrawled in messy handwriting, with hearts drawn around it followed by a simple message….

‘Have a good day. I love you! Dad xx’

i love you Dad