Son vs. Summer Camp

MomSpeaker Raya Fagg sees summer camp as a way for her teenage son to build independence as he heads into high school. Her son sees it differently. The struggle, it seems, benefits both.

Last week I was driving The Boy to Spells Writing Camp and a comedian was on the radio doing a bit about his parents. He kvetched about his parents sending him to various camp, riffing on his most hated camp, horseback riding camp. “How useful is THAT skill in my life now?” he asked the audience to raucous laughter. The comic concluded that parents who send their children to multiple camps really don’t want their children around.

This was all The Boy needed to launch into his daily monologue about how much he hates camp, how I’m ruining the time he could be hanging with his friends, how I don’t give him a say. I’ve learned to tune the monologue out. Every summer creeps up on me and I have to hustle to find a way to keep him occupied. If I don’t, I get to hear the overused refrain of “I’m bored!” once he has finished vanquishing enemies via the Wii and gone cross-eyed watching YouTube walk-throughs. This is followed by his decision to meet me for lunch (I usually pay) and him waxing poetic about why he can’t connect with his friends. Trying to master Spanish and keep English as a Second Language classes entertaining, I made the decision not to fight him, Instead, I have opted for cheese with that whine.

Despite overhearing conversations with my niece that tells otherwise, The Boy insists that Spells isn’t his type of camp. Until he and his not quite equally talented brothers are headlining on Ed Sullivan (Jimmy Kimmel?!), he’s going to be heading to North Philly as long as Spells offer writing camps.

What The Boy doesn’t understand is that summer camp is not just about me getting out of having a teenage lunch date daily.

Summer camp is his introduction to the high school years. Next school year, there won’t be a Miss Daniela waiting for him as he shovels a piece of toast in his mouth and looks for the shoes I told him to lay out the night before. There won’t be me in my pajamas, crusty eyes, with black coffee fortifying me as I battle middle schoolers who think their hips double as bumpers, high schoolers who walk in a pack, eyeballing my car as a dare as they dart in traffic. The trolley will not let him off a block from school.

This summer is my baby becoming a young man.

The Mister has decided that the Old Spice commercials are an appropriate description of my relationship to The Boy.

I do love my son fiercely, and despite the declarations of The Teen, it goes deeper than him being the favorite. (Honestly, I should add I can still bully, bribe and threaten him to submission. At 20, The Teen is not having it.) The Boy was the first to crawl into bed when I did not win my election, telling me that I get to spend more time at home. It is The Boy who will tell me WHY an outfit looks terrible, compared to The Teen’s dismissive phrase that I need to get my “Whole Life and change.”

Spells Writing Camp, while a way to keep my son busy, also serves as a test. Heading to North Philly, my son has to learn to navigate public transportation, read a map and stay alert. Unless I get tapped to work in Center City, I am not making that drive into Philly to get him to school on time. This summer is for him to get comfortable with the denizens of Septa (per my niece, “It’s always some old person getting on with fruit” or “Yo, this guy was smoking marijuana! on the train"). I didn’t drop The Teen off at school unless it was important, and I don’t plan on dropping The Boy off either. This is all the next phase of his life.

Sunday, I dropped him off at Boy Scout Camp. Despite The Mister’s assertions that I was channeling my inner Mr. Miyagi, I decorated his tent with citronella and eucalyptus. We both hate spiders and I am no fan of bugs. As The Boy rolled down his tent to change into his swimwear, I gave him a tentative wave and walked away.

My baby, er, Young Man will be OK.

Raya Fagg is a mom of two from Upper Darby, PA. This post is adapted from her blog, And Starring As Herself…MRSRFKJ.

Categories: MomSpeak