"The Warm Hug That Said, "Hello" : A Parent's Perspective on WAEL
This blog, beautifully written by a parent who sent her "Monkey" on our first trip of the summer, tells us about the changes she notice in him on the day she picked him up. We've added the photos from Monkey's trip lead by Charlotte and Jay, but the words are hers. You can read the original post and more blogs from this WAsome mom here.
The Warm Hug That Said, “Hello.”
It had been six days and seven nights since I’d last seen my little boy. I say little but he is 12, five feet tall and 105 pounds. As he has surpassed some great aunts and uncles in height, it’s probably not the right adjective but in my heart my son will always be my little boy or rather, “my baby.”
In the nights he wasn’t here my imaginations ran wild. My husband, The Sailor, snored through these imaginary tales I entertained. I tossed, I turned and then tossed back again. Each time asking myself, “What did he eat? Did he hit his head on a canoe? I hope his back is okay. Those packs looked big. And his ankle. He was so concerned he’d hurt himself before skate camp. I hope his ankle is okay. What if he can’t sleep in the woods? I love sleeping in the woods but those noises they can be strange for a little guy. Ugh and the rain. It’s raining tonight there. He’s gonna hate me for sending him there. He’s probably starving – he insisted he wouldn’t eat the dehydrated foods.”
Every night I played those fears in my head, some nights were worse, “What if they lost him in the woods and just aren’t calling me yet?” And each morning, The Sailor would tell me, “You are nuts. He’s fine.” His smile, warm reassuring hug and reiteration of the words, “He’s fine,” were all I needed to get through the hours.
On our way to the camp I was filled with anticipation. I wondered if he’d grown, what friends he made, what he loved or hated. I’d convinced myself that this wouldn’t happen again, we’d probably stick to skate camp, that roughing it wasn’t for my son.
Wilderness Adventure Camp at Eagle Landing is tucked away in the mountains of Virginia just past New Castle. An unassuming but beautiful log cabin rests on its main campus with a lodge for check in up the hill. A home to tweens, teens, couples, weddings, family reunions and whole bunch of team building corporate events keep this place popping all year round. They even have beer tastings in the fall, and after I saw how beautiful their lodge and facilities were inside as well as out, you can bet it’s on my list of “to do’s” this year! (You can read more about the camp at their site or in a previous post I wrote called, Adventures in Letting Go.)
We pulled into the gravel lot, and I raced up the hill to check out my son. Boys were running, laughing and smiling. Clearly they’d gotten to know one another in the last 6 days. I couldn’t find my Monkey anywhere so I asked one kid where he thought he might be and he said without hesitation, “Oh he’s still eating breakfast.” Still eating breakfast? My son doesn’t make an event out of any meal, so to hear that he was still lingering over a plate of eggs made me think, something had changed.
As I stared up the hill I saw him. Standing under the shelter at a table, nestled between two girls. He was intently writing something down, and conversing with them both. Without calling to him, he turned and saw us then came down the hill towards us.
Why isn’t he running to me like he has at every other camp, I wondered? He’s walking different. Why does he have his hand in his pocket like that? “Hey Guys.” Guys? His hand lightly touched my elbow . “Did you have fun? You ready to go?” I asked. Referring to a paper in his other hand he said, “Yeah, let me just go finish this up and then we can catch up.” My husband, picking up on the new independent vibe was quick to jump in, “Sure thing man. Come and get us when you want to talk or go.”
I was speechless. Why didn’t he hug me hello? Where is my hug? I want my Monkey hug? Why didn’t he miss me? My heart was pounding inside my chest, my lips moving forward into a pursed pout as I tried hard to hold back my tears and confusion reigned over my senses. “What’s wrong with me?” I thought, “Get a grip!” From a distance I watched him finish talking to a young girl, then head to his counselor where he spoke for a bit and then laid a paper in a pile with others. I obsessed more, “He really looked different. His voice was different too. It couldn’t have changed in 6 days. Get a grip!” Before I could think again, he was standing right in front of us.
“Hi. Sorry about that, I just needed to finish a form for my counselor. ” He said.
Since when did my son finish anything on his own without a reminder?
“Oh sure.” I said. “Of course.” I wanted to hug him so badly but I knew that at 12 I had to wait for him to hug me. It was so hard to do but I did it and instead just said,”I missed you so much.”
“I missed you too.” He said. Then smiled up at us. His brown eyes beaming, “A lot.” Then without notice he leaned in and hugged me tightly. “I love you mom. Thank you so much for sending me here, it was the best. You were right.”
There it was. The hug I’d been waiting for. As a mother the first time we hold our children in our arms is the first time we know we aren’t important. The only thing that’s important is keeping our baby alive, healthy and happy. Our mama bear instincts are set to “on” – and it’s a forever setting. There’s no going back. And while we are forever watching over our cubs we are also forever comforted hugging the cub. It’s the one time we are reassuring our children and ourselves at the same time, that all will be okay, and it all will be and it all feels okay. The chemistry, closeness and bond a mother has with her children can not be broken. It will ebb and flow at different times, but in that moment I was reminded that he will always be my baby, and I will always want to hug him like he’s my baby. And that’s okay. That’s what moms do.
I wanted to say, “I was right? Really? You loved it? How did this happen? Why are you being so nice? And why do you sound so grown up?” Crying inside and overwhelmed by the clear change in my son which I couldn’t place with words, I just smiled at him and said, “I’m so glad you had fun. I knew you would.”
The car ride home was filled with one story after another. Finally the details from the trip I’d wanted were coming to life. He told us about the kids on the trip, how they all became friends, his counselors and how cool they were about giving them space and letting them just “be.”He told us of the dehydrated food, “I mean I didn’t want to eat it but I had to you know because otherwise I’d have not been able to keep up. It wasn’t bad either.”I learned that in 6 days my son had eaten foods he’d swore off for nearly 12 years: Beef strogonoff, lasagna, mushrooms, rice, oatmeal. He told us about sleeping in tents with kids he just met, how he fell on his face hiking because the pack was too heavy, how he did real rock climbing and fake. His love of canoeing and the slipper rock slides. For hours, we jumped from one activity to the next and each one had a story, a memory – each one was proof positive that the Wilderness Adventure Camp at Eagle Landing was the very things I’d been searching for to open my sons heart to the possibilities that lie within him. Before we knew it the car ride was over and we were home.
Getting out of the car he said, “Oh and I learned how to pack a bag. Like really good you know. And mom, you were right. The friends I made were so different. We really bonded. I mean I thought you were kind of just being you, you know. But you were right, I mean these friends I made are different.”
Later that night he told us how he was so proud of himself, that there weren’t times he was really scared but more a lot of times he was just proud that he was doing stuff some kids and people never do or will never do.
As parents we often want to give our kids something we didn’t have or something we always had. Wilderness Adventure Camp at Eagle Landing gave me the chance to share my childhood memories with my son without even being with him, and at the same time it afforded him memories I’ve never been afforded. I’m so thankful for this camp and the experiences my son had. More importantly it built a certain sense of confidence inside him and showed my son that his instincts are right, he can do anything he sets his mind to, anything at all. A trip back next year really depends on where we will be stationed but you can be sure Monkey’s memories will keep us visiting this camp again and again!