Daffodils blooming, grass growing, longer days, and camp applications arriving in the mail mark the arrival of spring. We have a top-notch medical camp facility just forty-five minutes from our home. Our local Children’s Hospital hematology/oncology department sends staff to run the camp and take care of the kids. Camp is a week of acceptance. They get to be normal kids. They can talk about how bleeds hurt and how it makes them sad or special. Kids have a safe place where they can share experiences and infuse factor with others. They can compare bruises and emergency room stories. They get to be surrounded by others who just get “it.”
Jackson was old enough to attend camp last year. He had a buddy that was going and he could room with. Even though I was apprehensive, I talked camp up. I knew the fear I had of dropping my 7-year-old off for a week-long, overnight camp was little in comparison to the lifelong friends and acceptance he would feel while attending. I took a deep breath and asked if he wanted to go. He looked at me and said, “No.” I wasn’t expecting that answer. I tried selling camp every way I could. I told him about the cool cabins, the canoeing, rock wall climbing, swimming, archery. He wasn’t buying it.
I know how beneficial camp can be. I have two daughters who have type 1 diabetes. The camp facility that holds the hemophilia camp is also the same place they hold diabetes camp. I had the same apprehension dropping my middle daughter off at diabetes camp her first year. But I saw how much she loved it and looked forward to going year after year. She was with people who understood what it was like to live with a chronic illness. No one looked at her strange as she pricked her finger to take her blood sugar or changed her insulin pump site. She was truly among her peers. So it made sense to send my eldest off to the same camp just after she was diagnosed as a teenager. Since she was diagnosed when she was older, she was able to attend camp as a counselor. She loved helping the younger kids take care of their diabetes and being able to be there for them. My girls go to diabetes camp every year. I wanted the same experience for my son at hemophilia camp.
As a parent there are certain times we have to encourage our kids to do something they don’t want or like to do. Was this one of those times? Ithought carefully about it. I realized that if I forced him to go and he hated it he would never want to go back. If I waited until he was ready it would make the experience that much better. So I let it go. When the camp application arrived this year I asked him if he was ready to go to camp. Again he said, “No.” Again, I let it go. He just turned 8 last month. We have ten more years of camp opportunities.
This time I am letting him make the decision to go or not to go. He will let me know when he is ready and I will be at peace as I drop him off knowing he made the decision and will have the time of his life. It shouldn’t be a struggle or a fight to drop your kid off at camp. It’s about them being ready to experience camp and all that it has to offer. I fully understand the benefits of summer camp for chronically ill children and I truly hope that Jackson chooses to go one day, but for now I respect and understand his decision.
Jen lives in Ohio with her husband, Joe, and their three children: Evelyn (21), Nora (14), and Jackson (8).
*Note: “Infusing Love: A Mom’s View,” is a blog collection of personal opinions and a representation of individuals experiences. While extensive efforts are made to ensure accuracy of the content, the blog entries do not represent HFA or its Board of Directors. The blog is also not intended to be construed as medical advice or the official opinion/position of HFA, its staff, or its Board of Directors. Readers are strongly encouraged to discuss their own medical treatment with their healthcare providers.