Peanut, my seven-year-old, refused to go to camp today.
He’s never wanted to go to camp. His first try was two weeks of camp the year between kindergarten and first grade, and he loved it. Except that he hates new things and doesn’t like new people, and is generally resistant to all experiences except the ones he’s just had one minute ago. Sigh. It’s as though his neophobia is genetic or something.
(Fun trick: call me and invite me to Hawaii tomorrow. I will panic and break out in sweat and tell you thirteen reasons I can’t go. And in three weeks, when I finally get used to the idea, I’ll call you to find out how your trip was. And I’ll still be glad I didn’t go because it was all just too much to process right now.)
So it’s clearly his own weirdness that gets him to this avoidance of all potential fun. Not my fault at all. As with all his flaws, I had nothing to do with either the nature or the nurture involved.
So in January, I went all New-York-parent on him and told him we had a month to decide on camps, upon penalty of missing all the good camps and being
stuck with each other on our own for ten weeks without enough ideas to get us through. He wanted three weeks of camp. I talked him into five. We both felt we’d be okay with that number.
And I would be.
If the little headstrong (not my fault), opinionated (also not my fault), debate-seeker (totally not me at all) guy would go to camp.
He has attended three weeks’ worth of outdoors-y day camp in the eight weeks he’s been off school. And today should have begun week four. But last week and this weekend and this morning he told me that there was no way. His friends loved this camp last year, but he tried it as a partial backup when he couldn’t participate in a super-cool, two-week archery-lacrosse-rugby-soccer-jai’alai-badmiton sports camp because of his broken arm. And he hated it. It was boring, unimpressive, and long, he said. They didn’t make good use of the forest in which the camp is located, he said. The choices they offer are dumb, he said. It’s a waste of being outside in the summer, he said.
Upon hearing his refusal to go today I took a long look at his three-year-old brother, who has no preschool for another three weeks. I mentally thumbed through an index print of the summer highlights: fights over forts, fights over toys, fights over what to do, fights over who’s a better ninja.
“If you stay home, you have to hang out with us. All day. Including him.” I indicated with this pronoun a head nod to the completely angelic, adorable, fun-loving younger brother who is in no way aggressive (not my fault), abusive (so very not my fault), foul-mouthed (all his father), or moody (please…never a day in my life).
Peanut shrugged. He explained a few reasons why he’d rather roll with our planned day of board games and exploration than go to a mellow outdoor camp. None of the reasons was compelling or particularly articulate. None of them would sway my desire to continue with the day as planned.
But I let him stay home.
We spent a lot of time and money planning the summer so that he’d have some time with peers. I spent more effort than I’d like choosing to spend solo time with each child rather than sending them both to camp at the same time so I could work on my book. I voted to give them unscheduled time rather than give myself unscheduled time. It was a terrible vote except for the part that I totally stand by it because it’s what my kids needed.
So as I feel the waves of panic hit, knowing that most of summer is gone and I have worked on maybe one paragraph of my novel, I can’t see any point in forcing the kid into camp this week. Because his brother is home,
bugging me engaging me in his creative preschool pursuits. It’s not like I’d get any work done, anyway. The money is spent either way, and it’s not as though an unstructured, boring outdoor camp is getting him into Harvard any time soon. And contrary to the impression I’ve left over five years of blogging about pulling my hair out while I muddle through as a woefully inadequate parent, I actually like spending time with the guy.
He stayed home from camp. We had a family dance party, we made homemade lemonade, we biked/scootered/ran to the distant grocery store for Juan Canary melon and salad bar and cookies. They scrounged up small toys for me to hide in plastic eggs for a Random Monday Egg Hunt. They asked for and fought through an episode of Planet Earth. They beat the tar out of each other over whose fort had a bigger blanket. They screamed about pillows and not sharing and some ridiculous thing about who’s allowed to use the gold origami paper. I calmly navigated each of these battles with suggestions and reminders and distractions. None of it worked, so I yelled a lot of “stop it”s when things got dangerous.
At the end of the evening, I asked Peanut to please, please try camp tomorrow. Just a half a day. Because we’ve paid for it. Because clearly a full day with his brother is not his idea of a good time. Because being bored in a forest beat the heck out of having a clump of your hair pulled out while under a fort blanket.
And I bet you right now that he will put his foot down and refuse to go. I’ll bet he chooses playgrounds and museums and craft projects and Monopoly and fights over unknown amounts of fun with a small group of strangers.
Because seriously, I would, too.
He said three weeks, after all. He said that in January, he said it in February. He said it in March and April and May.
Maybe next year I’ll listen to him. And schedule his brother for the same three weeks.