I met one of my oldest friends on my Year 8 camp. She was my Year 9 buddy, and she gave me my first cigarette. Boom: friends for life.
(Joking, she’s also really pretty, so there was more to it than just free smokes.)
I know many parents want to be puritanical about school camps, but let’s be honest, we all remember the shenanigans we got up to. Truth or dare. Contraband lollies. Scratching the tents of your classmates as you went to the loo in the dead of night. Leaving each other in the loos in the pitch dark. Slacking off on the orienteering activity.
Awesome memories. The making (and occasional breaking) of lifelong friends.
Fast forward thirty years, and I’m now a parent sending my son to camp. And all I can do is empathise with my mum who had to do this five times a year for a decade.
It starts with the three page list you’re sent the month prior. Which of course, if you’re anything like me, you look at 48 hours before the camp itself. If it’s a first camp, or they’ve outgrown the sleeping bag/rain jacket/thermals/hiking boots from last year, you’ll find yourself hitting up a discount department store – even though your kid insists they need the “proper stuff” from the shop that people go to when they’re planning to climb Mount Everest.
Would you let your 10-year-old go camping alone? Post continues after…
But no matter how organised you are, invariably there are tears involved. Packing panic tears. “I’m going to miss you” tears. Camp eve excitement “go the f*ck to sleep” tears.
Then there are relief tears when you wave them off on the bus, because there’s one less child in your house for a couple of nights.
And if you’re a sole parent to a sole child like me, IT IS AT LEAST ONE NIGHT OFF. And it’s not like they’re just at a sleepover, and can be returned to you at any time because they’ve decided they’d prefer their own bed.
So. That’s all bearable, but it’s the end of camp that’s the worst.
The novelty of being a child down has worn off, and you remember that you god damn adore that kid and want them back. So you eagerly await the bus at school. But it’s not the reunion you’re expecting, because it’s not your child that gets off that bus.
It’s a filthy, sleep-deprived, hangry, emotionally fraught, little demon.
There’s an immediate demand for food before they’re even within a metre of you. When they get into your personal space, you resist the urge to recoil/vomit at the smell. Because, in total mockery of the toiletries and clean clothes that made up three quarters of that camp list, no personal hygiene has been attended to for days.