Mr G is off at camp for two weeks. Sleep away camp, first try at this.
I'm not worried about it, though - he's had basic training for sleep-away by going to Baba Camp at my mom's (Baba being my mom) once or twice a year for YEARS. Sleeping somewhere else, under someone else's rules, not a problem. This is obviously a big step up on the difference, but it isn't completely unfamiliar, either. He sleeps in bunks at Baba's, has to manage his stuff, works on a different schedule.
Biggest issue is likely to be food. He doesn't have Fructose Malabsorption, but he does have a self-limited diet, and he will just decline to eat if he doesn't like what's there. Which would be bad at camp. However, he knows he's going to have to try some stuff he otherwise wouldn't eat, and he has 10 'backup' yogurts if there is nothing he can manage at any given meal. Ten being not enough to rely on, but enough to tide him over if needed.
Everyone thinks that he'll be 'like the other kids' when they first meet him. Yes, yes, we know about kids like him, really, we do. We've been doing this for 20 years (or whatever), he'll be fine.
Yeah, and you really don't know him yet.
I can't count the number of times teachers (often with great experience) have said, 'don't worry, we've got this, he'll be fine' and then have come back later and said, 'um, wow, he really has a strong sense of himself, doesn't he?' - because he WILL NOT choose to follow someone else's path. At 3 years old, he declined to eat at all during school hours (11 hour day!) for three days, because there were no foods he was willing to try. He stuffed himself the moment he got home, to the point that he cried from his stomach hurting so bad. But he would not consent to eat even one cracker. The teachers noted that he declined politely, was calm and direct, and never offensive or angry... but just would not.
At 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 years old, several individuals insisted that he'd learn to use the potty under their guidance. It was either structure, or peer modeling, or reassurance, or something they would do that would convince him to move from Pull-ups to underwear.
No amount of experience applies, when someone is totally internally motivated. It is his decision, and it always has been. Even when he weaned, it was his internal decision that changed things. Not that we can't help him choose - limiting the options works, but you have to be willing to live with the consequences of those options, too. So, if it is 'potty or no trip to the museum' then you have to live with 'no trip to the museum'. When we were told that he had to be using the potty to move up to the other class, that was a wince - but they accommodated him in the other class, rather than requiring him to switch to underwear. He knows that if he follows his own direction, people will line up and follow.
And he also knows that following 'just because everyone else does it' is not the right choice. Not for him, and not for most people. He knew that when he was little, too - and said so, to my face, when I was trying to use peer pressure to get him to use the potty. "Do you really want me to do things just because other people do them?' Um. No, I don't. I really truly do not.
So, he's got his own drummer. March march march.
And off to sleep-away camp. We picked a camp that is all about the individuals involved. It's a Quaker camp, small but full of interesting people and activities. They have a ton of physical stuff to do (high ropes! swimming! canoeing! wilderness survival! horseback riding!), but also lots of other options for those less physically driven. The age range is pretty big - 7 and up, essentially. All the sevens I met were there with siblings or friends, the two-week session being a lot to ask of 7-year olds. Most of the solo-7's go to the one-weekers (though there were some younger campers who had done one week the previous year, and were doing two this year).
I ended up wanting to stay for camp. Woods, water, food I don't have to cook, games, free time, hanging out with people who like different stuff, learning new things... ooh, ooh, can I stay?
Mr G didn't quite kick me out, but he did just go off to join in with the other kids, leaving me talking to the nurse about reflux meds. One of the other kids had stopped by the nurse's line and asked his parents, politely, when they were leaving. Very much in the sense of, um, mom, dad, you can GO now...
I liked the dynamics I saw, too. There was a girl there who ran into friends from a previous year. She struck me as similar to a Fetal Alcohol Syndrome child, reasonably together but with odd gaps in cognitive skills (something I recognize from dealing with fetal alcohol syndrome in the family, no idea if it was FAS or ADHD or meds side-effects, or something else entirely, just that sense of 'gap'). Her mother asked her to stay in line a moment while she took a younger sib to the bathroom. The two friends of hers were called in another direction, said they'd be right back. The girl started to follow, and her two friends turned back to her, affectionately and respectfully (but clearly) indicating that they would be back, and she needed to stay put as her mom had asked.
The 'got your back' thing is really at theme there - another mom was talking about the first year her son was there, when he was 7. One of the kids in his cabin had a bad case of homesickness, and the entire cabin just formed up around him. She said her son had said he didn't have time or energy to feel homesick, because he was too busy making sure the other kid was okay, enjoying himself, being listened to, and so forth. And the other kid did start having fun - with a cabin full of 7 year olds (so earnest!) trying to make sure you do, it would be hard not to get there.
That's the kind of attitude they indicated they had there when we went to check it out, and it was nice to see the reflection of that in person.
I don't expect Mr G to miss us much. Maybe a little, but not much. He'll be in his element. He doesn't mind being around new people or places. He will roll with the activities until they cross some line of his, and then stop - but he also is respectful about that line, and watches for it coming.
He's extra happy because there were other boys there who were wearing jewelry. Like, two kids under 9 with earrings. He was so on that. Mom, mom, he's got an earring! (We've said no until 16, when we think he'll have his style refined more... might lose that battle sooner than we think!) But that also means he's keeping his rings with him.
I didn't get squishy while he was there, or even after leaving, or at dinner. I can feel it this morning, though, the lack of him in the house.
Mr B is feeling it bad already, though. Last night, he could barely eat, moped around, groused. He did at least do a good job of saying it instead of 'doing' it - he clearly stated that he was going to miss his brother, a lot. To me, and to him. He also did a really good job of supporting his brother in the process of going - helping shop for the last things, helping him pack, carry his stuff to his cabin, and make the bed. Only a little harassing him, even.
So, off we go on another adventure. Stretching the emotional bonds and exercising their function at greater distance. I don't have a sense that there's anything that can't be handled in this. Just a new experience. A very cool new experience.
Next year, maybe Mr B will decide he's old enough to go to sleep-away camp. They have horseback riding there, after all...
And of course, they'll have Mr G, too.