Tag Archives: camp

Calamity at Scout Camp

Sometimes a week is just too long. Too long to focus, too long to be socially appropriate, too long to make the right decisions. Too long for there to not be any problems.

Nigel just returned from a week at Scout camp, and for the most part, everything went well. His father also attended, facilitating appropriate social interaction and keeping Nigel on track with the regular Scout duties that he would sometimes rather shirk. But Nigel participated, helped cook and clean, and attended merit badge activities for environmental science, oceanography, archery, and camping. He did really well until the last day.

Nigel, like many autistic individuals, is an animal lover. He loves our cats, his father’s dog, and the rodents we’ve had, including his very own mouse. He loves animals of most kinds, including fish, birds, and reptiles (insects, not so much). And so he was nearly obsessed with the birds’ nest that was at the Scout camp. There were baby birds in it, up in a tree, and all of the Scout groups took turns going to observe the nest. Scouts and adult leaders alike enjoyed watching the baby birds and their parents.  Nigel, more excited than most, decided that he wanted to hold one of the babies.

Well, I’m sure you can see where this is going. In his attempt to retrieve the nest, it fell to the ground. Afraid that he would get in trouble, he left the scene. Everyone at camp soon discovered that the nest had been knocked down and the babies had died, and they all wondered who was responsible. Nigel’s dad had a feeling, so he privately asked Nigel if he had done it. Nigel, visibly upset, admitted his terrible mistake.

It pains me to think of my poor son in such turmoil, berating himself for not thinking about the consequences of his actions, feeling such guilt and remorse that he caused himself to projectile vomit because of his nerves. He has made mistakes of this magnitude before, and after dealing with the consequences, I’ve always assured him that making mistakes is part of growing up, that we all do it, autistic or not. He often blames his neurological difference, saying, “It’s because of the A word. I have a defective brain.” Telling him that different does not mean defective doesn’t seem to help much.  I hate that “the A word” causes him to devalue himself.

And so we get through the day – the week – with another “learning experience” under our collective belts.  Some weeks there’s just more to learn, I guess.

Beach Camp

It’s so quiet that it feels like the house is holding its breath. Today marks the half-way point of my sons’ summer visit with their father for seven weeks.  They return on August 1, and I am longing to hear their voices and footsteps fill the house again.

I remember when I was growing up in the seventies I would read books and see movies from the fifties and sixties about kids going away to camp for the summer. It was for much longer than one or two weeks; it was like, two months. Remember the original Parent Trap? They were gone for so long they were able to fool their parents when they got back! It just seems like that was the thing to do then – go to camp for the summer. I never did as a child. And although I wondered about it, I was glad that I didn’t have to go. I like the outdoors, but I would miss home. And what about the parents? Did they want to send their kids to camp, or did they do it because it was the socially acceptable thing to do? I try to imagine what that was like.

So I pretend that my boys are away at camp. They’re at Beach Camp. I just talked to them last night, and it sounds like that’s what they’re doing the most, what they enjoy – going to the beach. They both like to boogie-board, which is amazing to watch. I saw them do it when I visited them in LA three and four summers ago.  It is wonderful to watch your autistic child excel at something. It’s wonderful to watch any child excel at something, autistic or not, but there’s more gratitude concerning the autistic child. Because not too many years ago I wondered if mine would enjoy doing things like that, would enjoy anything other than watching Disney videos and lining up Hot Wheels cars end to end along the back of the couch and leaning his head to one side to stare at them. Yes, I am grateful that my autistic child has learned to boogie-board, and he likes it.

I have much to be grateful for. I think that is the key to getting through the next three and a half weeks of missing my sons. I’ll keep in mind all the things I appreciate about them, what makes them special as individuals. Just like the twins in The Parent Trap. Their parents were happy when they came home from camp, too. But at least I’m able to tell my kids apart!