Monday, July 14, 2014

Happy Camper

I dropped my son off at basketball camp the other day, and came away feeling dirty, alarmed, and ashamed. Let me explain.
This monkey is the oldest of all of our monkeys and also it seems, the least ready to eventually face the real world. Allow me to demonstrate how I've reached this conclusion.
When I told him to grab a pillow, for instance, he brought his pillow down, sans case, and thought that was acceptable. Now, I don't know about you, but I find that I'm skeeved out by the thought of my sweaty, nearly grown child sleeping for even one night without a pillow case, but sending him off to camp with a naked pillow seems especially wrong. Like the parenting police will come and revoke my "I'm capable of keeping humans alive" card. Because let's face it, I don't really deserve a "good parenting" trophy or even merit a "halfway decent" consolation ribbon. But I do, generally, manage somehow to keep the horde alive.
So, ok. I hand him a fresh pillow case and we head off. As slightly alarming as knowing he was perfectly willing to sleep without a protective cover on his pillow for a week was, nothing could prepare me for what the day would bring.
We arrive at camp registration and he signs in. They hand him a key, and tell us where the dorms are. (This camp was at a local college.) I head into the adjoining room to finalize the medical and official paperwork, and he heads back out to the car. Fine. Except on my way out, one of the registrants hails me, telling me he forgot to actually take the key they handed him. So, back in he goes, alarming me to the fact that my key deposit will never be seen again, and my child may well spend several nights sleeping in the hallway due to his inability to enter a room with a key he's already lost within the first five minutes of being at camp.
We eventually find the right door to the building and then the right floor. He gets turned around following the signs clearly posted on the walls (by this point, I'm conducting a scientific experiment whereby I'm not helping him survive in the wilderness), and finally he finds his room.
Then the fun begins.
This is an old school building. The locks aren't fancy magnetic swipe locks, there's no thumbprint and retinal scan necessary to gain entrance. It's a simple insert key into hole and turn type device. Maybe that was the problem- such low tech apparatus are not customary for this generation. Or maybe my particular monkey is simply inept. Either way, he struggles for at least a full minute with fitting the key into the lock.
He eventually manages to make it work, and we enter the room, where his roommate had already been and left one of the beds neatly made with matching sheets and a turned down quilt. My own offspring? Tossed everything he was carrying onto the bed, turned to me, and said "Bye."
Really, kid? You don't feel the need to make your bed, put your single backpack containing a week's worth of clothes and hygiene supplies somewhere other than in the middle of your unmade bed, or even thank your mother for her time and trouble, not to mention the expense of sending your ungrateful ass to camp?
Clearly, I'm doing a stellar job at mothering if my child can't be bothered with even the slightest degree of politeness. Never mind unending declarations of love, all I really want is a thank you and a handshake.
But alas, that was not to be from my most sullen, surly offspring. In fact, there's no doubt in my mind he didn't even consider the possibility.
So, I replied with "Bye." right back, then forced him to hug me, told him to have a good time and that I loved him, and walked away, feeling distinctly as if I'd thrown my eldest child directly into the lion's den.
By some insane miracle, he appeared none the worse for wear when I returned days later to retrieve him, and against all odds, he somehow hadn't lost his key, and therefore my deposit was, in fact, returned to me.
Color me surprised.
I'm figuring the lesson here was that sometimes it's ok to let your child sink or swim. Especially if that child will be considered an adult in just over two years, capable of dying in combat or given the power to elect government officials.
While a little part of me may very well have felt just slightly guilty, leaving such an obviously incompetent person in charge of his own welfare without my presence serving as a safety net, ready to catch him should calamity strike, the rest of me was like "meh."
It was a semi-controlled environment, for one thing. And he's more than half grown and really needs to be able to figure shit out on his own, for another.
I may not be given any awards for the way I participate in the raising of this flock of monkeys, but when you consider my end goal is to have them turned into productive and moral human beings by the time they fly the nest, all that really matters is that somehow or other, he managed to survive a week at camp without me there reminding him to brush his teeth and take his contacts out.