Life passes by so quickly that I sometimes have a hard time keeping up on our blog. Summer is now behind us and middle school has been in session for four weeks now, but I can’t let it go by without discussing Summer Camp. We found a camp for transgender youth located near us last year. After reading all about it and following their social media, we decided this would be a great opportunity for our son to experience camp in a loving and supportive environment and to make some friends who can relate to our son. Last month, for the first time ever, we packed up our kiddo and sent him off to Camp Aranu’tiq of Harbor Camps in the beautiful mountains of California.
As we arrived to the camp, our son was filled with emotions ranging from nerves to excitement to fears of the unknown. We checked him in, found his cabin and secured him a top bunk near a window as there was no air conditioning and it was warm in the cabin. There were a few other boys in the large cabin, just standing around. You could tell they all had the same sort of emotions running through them. So, I went into momma mode and quickly starting introducing our son to everyone. We met one of the counselors and got a quick tour of the large cabin. Everyone was so unique and I (mom) just wanted to sit and chat with them all to learn their story and offer hugs of encouragement and support. Clearly, I didn’t, but I was really hoping that they would all connect with each other and create their own support system.
After our tour of the cabin, we just sort of walked around the camp for a few minutes checking it all out and decided to quickly leave our son so that he can start his experience. I had huge hopes for him. I wanted him to make some lifetime friendships, some local friends and experience all the fun that camp offers to youth – camp fires, activities out of your comfort zone, mess hall style meals and just a real sense of adventure. The best part, was no technology was allowed. We wanted our son to take a break and disconnect from his devices, but the thought of absolutely no contact with him was a bit weird. We are all so connected at the touch of our fingers, to let go of that was a bit refreshing and a bit scary. We had a quick moment of big hugs and kisses and sent him back into his cabin as we headed back to our car.
The week went by rather quiet without him around. We were able to send an email mid week, but couldn’t get a response back. We wondered how he was doing. Did he make friends? Is he having fun? I had to drive up at the end of camp by myself to pick him up as my hubby had to work. I pulled into the parking lot, which was near his cabin, and as I walked halfway up into the camp, I was met by our son, who was in tears crying! My heart sunk and the pace of my steps picked up until we embraced into a long, tight hug. I asked what was wrong and his words will always make me giggle. He said, “I just miss everyone so much..” with which I started to reply, “We missed you too buddy…” But as my words spoke, I was cut off by his words “I don’t want to go home, I don’t want to leave everyone, Im not ready to say goodbye.” At that point, I started laughing…he didn’t miss us, he is missing his friends that he has already had to say goodbye to. That made this momma heart very happy. I wiped his tears and started asking him about his week as we walked to check him out. Everyone was saying goodbye to our son and you could feel this sense of unity amongst the entire camp, from the campers, to the staff, they all were connected on a deeper level after their week together.
On our long car ride home, I heard all about the week. His new friends, where they live, what activities they did, what they ate. He was so chatty and filled with an energy that is not the norm. It was wonderful to witness. We got him home and post camp blues kicked in real quick. I wasn’t quite prepared for that and it was a bit alarming at first, but then we got an email from camp telling us to expect this and how to deal with it. I let him be sad and mourn the fact he will have to wait a whole year before he gets to have this experience again. He grabbed his phone and instantly started following his friends on social media and a text group was created. To this day, they all still chat with each other very often and it makes me super happy. I was really hoping for a new local friend but instead, we have a lot of friends all over the United States.
Having a sense of belonging was very helpful to our son. He told me he never wanted to leave the camp because he finally felt like he belonged somewhere. That was painful to hear, as a mother, but it is his truth. He felt at home at that camp and we will continue to do all we can to assure he gets to go back year after year.
♥︎ Just Parents