Archives for October 2013
Three years ago I was forced into a life changing decision. My type 1 diabetic, 11 year old son, was ready for a “normal” overnight camp experience.
Gulp! Who will give him the same care as the diabetes camps? How can I be certain that someone will make sure his insulin and sugar needs are met?
After talking with several overnight camps I followed my motherly instincts and chose the camp that seemed best equipped. When the director asked me how independent he is with his diabetes, it was difficult for me to answer. On the one hand, I wanted to assure the director that my son was ready to be on his own but on the other hand, I wanted him to take his illness seriously. So I cautiously told him how capable my precious boy was and pleaded with he and the nurses to take good care.
So with a wing and a prayer he was off on his 4 week overnight camp experience. I stayed strong for him but behind the scenes I was the mom hitting the “refresh” button on the camp photo page and checking my email for the nurse’s updates. In the photos, I saw a smiling, happy child waterskiing for the first time, jumping high in the air for tramp ball and leading his camp friends through an intracamp tournament.
Two summers later I can look back and realize that my son’s independence could never have happened without the gift of sleep away camp. His 11 year old person was ready to cut the chord and discover who he was beyond a diabetic kid. I had been looking at him first as a blood sugar number, wondering how to take control so he could have a “normal” life. My son took control of his disease that summer and the following summer he owned it completely. I spoke with the nurses once before he left for camp and he did the rest on his own.
As a now 14 year old boy, we have reached a new “normal” in our home. When I now look at him, I first see a responsible, happy, mature person who has found a good place as a diabetic in a non-diabetic world.
Although most kids do not have type 1 diabetes, many of them are working through challenges that they can benefit from the gift of the right overnight camp. The gift is also to us parents as we watch them explore into the best they can be.
I have a confession. Sometimes I go out to my garage just to take in the wood smells. You might find this strange but the comfort it evokes is incomparable.
The wood in my garage smells identically to my overnight camp art barn. This is where I first learned to solder jewelry, bake copper enamel jewelry, and silk screen a t-shirt. It’s where I learned as a young teenager, about my passion for the arts.
The opportunities for art classes at a performing arts camp stretched way beyond what I viewed was “forced” in school. It opened my eyes to a new kind of freedom of expression.
Overnight camp helped me through those confusing teenage years. I didn’t feel pigeonholed into the person I thought to be when I was home. It gave me permission to reinvent myself. I watched others do the same. I listened to a friend sing a song she had written. I watched another friend recite a monologue from a short play she had created. I shared in creating a life size human paper mache with other friends. Not only did it help me discover who I was by getting out of my comfort zone, it guided me towards my future.
Several years after camp, I returned as a camp counselor and had the honor of taking charge of that very same art barn that I loved. This was the summer after my first year at college as an art major. I was able to pass on that enthusiasm to a new generation of campers.
So, as strange as it may seem that one would enjoy the smell of their garage, it takes me to a place of discovery in my mind. It reminds me of a path that brought me to who I am today.