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The emotional stages of sending your child to school camp.

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I was feeling pretty smug that early morning as the sun rose and the large, white coaches arrived at the school gates. My son was off to his second-ever school camp. We’d packed together the night before with the list of requirements given to us by the school close by.

Jo Abi with her son, Philip. Image supplied.

He’s 12 so I like to involve him in as many of the organisational parts of his life as possible.

We remembered everything:

Roll on deodorant (because sprays are not allowed);

Epipen;

Shampoo;

Extra undies;

Toothbrush;

Rain coat;

Warm jacket;

A short-sleeved t-shirt because who knows what the weather will do

Money for snacks.

As I watched the coaches pull away from the curb I caught my son’s eye and we waved to each other. I didn’t feel teary at all, unlike the year before when he left for his first- ever school camp and I cried in the car.

Even though I managed to avoid the waterworks this time, here are the emotional stages of sending your child to school camp that all parents will experience.

Planning to be super organised but then leaving it until the night before.

I have three children, a job and a life so being super-organised just isn’t something I manage often. I’d been adding to a pile of things he might need for camp in his room. I tried not to think about how much I’d miss him.

Even though I thought we’d nailed it, 45 minutes after the coach pulled away, I received a text from Philip’s teacher, and knew in an instant what I had forgotten to pack.

A vomit bag.

Making them help get themselves ready.

Philip and I went over everything the night before, but we couldn’t find his awesome all-weather jacked he’d JUST been given for his birthday. This sucked, but I was proud of how calm we were, and didn’t let this get in the way of his excitement.

Realising you need to go shopping.

I did need to dash out and buy his favourite roll on deodorant because they don’t allow any aerosols. His favourite at the moment is Lynx Gold and I felt like Mother of the Year for not only remembering what his favourite was, but for remembering to buy it in the first place so he wouldn’t stink out the camp.

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Better to be over-prepared right? Image via NBC (Parks and Recreation).

The frantic morning.

We woke up a fraction earlier than planned but had time for breakfast. He didn’t eat a bite. He was too excited/nervous. I was trying to be strong. I will not cry, I will not cry, I will not cry.

Anxiety.

When we arrived at the school we signed in and he asked if I was going to stay until the coaches left. I asked if it was okay if I stayed – because since turning 12 there are lots of rules around what I can and cannot do in front of his friends – but he said I could stay, which was great, but he ran off with his friends anyway. I felt a bit anxious, and I think he did too, because as he walked past me to get on his coach he ran over and gave me a big hug.

The moment of realisation.

The text message that no parent wants to receive. Image supplied.

Yep, my son was the first student that day to get travel sick on their way to Canberra and instead of letting teacher know he wasn’t feeling well as soon as it started, he waited until the last possible moment and then didn’t make it.

Please remind me to buy the teacher/s who cleaned that mess up some chocolates for having to clean up my son’s mess.

No matter how organised I try and be there is always, ALWAYS something I forget to do for my children or pack for them. I learn quickly and trust me when I say I won’t forget to pack a vomit bag (a plastic shopping bag) in my children’s camping gear again.

That’s why I also stock up on those deworming chocolate squares. It’s one of those conditions (worms!) you don’t want to think about – like motion sickness – but it’s just the reality of having kids. Particularly when you consider how grubby kids can get, plus the fact that they were all in cabins in close quarters sharing food and playing rough and tumble. They’re the perfect conditions for the spreading of threadworms. I’ll never forget the first time my son had worms. He didn’t tell me for weeks because he thought the worms lived in the toilet! He was horrified to discover they were living in him, and ate his deworming chocolate squares happily.

He got worms a few times that year. All of us parents had to start ensuring our kids constantly washed their hands (especially after playing and touching toys and each other) and making sure they didn’t share food. Now we have an easy and effective plan in place in case they ever come back – kids will be kids, after all!

Philip and his friend before leaving for school camp. Image supplied.

As my children get older, I feel as though I’m less responsible for every little thing in their lives. My role is to get them ready, drop them off and hope they have fun. If they come home with problems, I solve them.

I prep and I repair. That’s my new role as a mother of older kids. Their job is simply to be free to be themselves.

How do you prepare your kids for school camp?

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