Noah is away this week at 4H camp and I can't help but think back to Austin's first and only camp trip. He was the same age as Noah is now and had been fairly active in 4H all school year. When flyers came out for camp, Austin was excited and eager to go.
In those early years, Austin had been excited and eager about other adventures too, only to change his mind somewhere midstream. Like the Spanish after-school class he 'just had to be a part of' in grade school that he quit after a few sessions. "It's too many words, Mom!" he complained. (I was happy though he picked that back up as a class in High School, and he loved it!)
As he grew older, Tim and I tried to teach him how important it was to never quit. I wanted him to have the attitude that he could try anything but I wanted him to give 100% if he did.
I was hesitant to sign him up for camp, because he'd never been away from home that long, and it wasn't cheap for someone who liked to change their mind. We had many discussions about it and he understood that once we paid, we were all committed. As the paperwork and last minute reminders arrived, I tried to continually build him up and keep him interested about the trip.
Austin was excited about the classes he would get to take but nervous that he wouldn't know a lot of kids. I remember him scanning the crowd on camp day to see who he knew, much like Noah did on Tuesday. We were both relieved to see some familiar faces and he felt better as he loaded the bus. He was worried he would miss Mom & Dad and lingered a bit though before boarding, soaking up one last hug prior to heading out.
As I always have with both my boys, I tucked hidden notes for him to find during the week in each of his outfits. I also mailed letters ahead of time so he'd have a note on the first day of camp. But as a mom always does, I missed him greatly and worried about him all week. Austin was a lot like me, a little reserved until he got to know you. Once he did, you were welcomed with a big hug, laughter, and practical jokes. I hoped he would warm up to the other kids there and make new friends. Austin was never one to stay away from home for very long though, usually not more than one or two nights and that was with family. The difference at camp too meant he couldn't call and talk to us, something else he was used to doing daily.
Hours crept by awaiting the final camp day and I was among the first to arrive in the parking lot to meet the bus. How I hoped he'd come bouncing off the bus, excited, bursting with news about camp and ready to go again. It didn't quite happen that way. Austin was happy to see me but I could tell from his expression he did not have a great camp experience. He waited until we got to the truck but then proceeded to tell me about what he exactly he didn't like. And there was a lot!
Top of the list - the pool. Austin loved to swim but he said the pool had too much chlorine. Add to this he'd had some kind of allergic breakout to the grass or something and his legs were covered in tiny bumps. He said swimming each day was kind of like a hundred needles stabbing him in the legs. He could be dramatic when he needed to be...another skill he took after his mom..and he turned it on to retell his days at camp. Needless to say, next year when the 4H flyers came out, he did not bring one home!
I remember once Noah had wanted to sign up for something - fall ball or some kind of sport, but he was wavering on making up his mind. Austin told him something like, "Trust me, I remember camp, if you aren't sure, don't do it. Mom and Dad don't like quitters and if you sign up, you're stuck with it!" (Hopefully, Noah will have a better experience to share when I pick him up on Friday.)
While I'm sad that Austin didn't have great memories from camp I do know the lessons learned stayed with him through the years. It was a trait I admired about Austin as he grew older. He wasn't a quitter. He always gave 100%. And if he told you he would do something, you could count on it. ....And it only took a week at 4H camp to teach him!