You might remember in May when I talked about taking Maddie and Noah to their first sleep-away camp. Noah was a little nervous about us forgetting him while he was gone. Maddie was most excited about swimming and Noah was most excited about staying up until “10pm every night“. Now ( in my best Paul Harvey voice) it’s time for… the rest of the story.
Honestly, I was a little nervous about camp. It was their first time being away from home like that since their adoptions. I wasn’t sure it wouldn’t bring up adoption/abandonment issues, but I hoped and prayed it wouldn’t. As the days passed with no news from camp, I knew things must be going well and I looked forward to picking the kids up and hearing all about it.
James and I had decided we would treat the kids to lunch at Chick-Fil-A before starting the 2.5 hour drive home. They love Chick-Fil-A and we thought it would be the perfect opportunity for us to hear all about camp. We anticipated the time together all week and as often happens with great expectations, it didn’t exactly work out as planned.
Noah was very quiet throughout the closing presentation at the camp. We chalked it up to him being tired. Maddie pulled me around introducing me to all her friends and we took a lot of pictures. Noah sat on a couch only moving when his name was called to receive a reward.
Noah was presented with the “Gourmet Chef” award and we were told of many interesting recipes he tried that week like peanut butter, jelly and taco meat. (Which he still says is “delicious!”) Maddie was presented with the “Social Butterfly” award which, well… fits her perfectly.
We were in the parking lot on our way into the Chick-Fil-A when it started. I was holding Noah’s hand nearly skipping my way into the restaurant until I became aware of a strange sound. I couldn’t tell at first where it was coming from. It was a high pitched squeal that also made Noah stop in his tracks and look down. I briefly thought he had stepped on a bug or a kitten or something until I realized his little body was shaking. I got down on my knees and looked into his face and he was crying. Actually, it was more than crying. It was more like sobbing or bawling. A little alarmed I asked him if he was hurt? sick? about to throw up? Did his head hurt? He shook his head “no” to each of these questions and then he choked out “I. miss. CCC-AAAA-MMMMM-PPPP”. oh! ::blink blink:: I wasn’t expecting that. We went on into the restaurant and I comforted Noah while James and Maddie ordered our lunch.
Maddie saw other kids from camp there and was doing her social butterfly thing. I breathed a sigh of relief that at least she would be tear free. When she came back to the table and sat down, she started rubbing her eyes. uh oh. I knew what that meant and sure enough her little face contorted and she blurted out “I. ::sob:: MISS. ::sob:: CCC-AAAA-MMMMM-PPPP!” James looked up from his chicken dinner and our eyes met briefly. Not the lunch we had anticipated. He took over comforting Noah and I gathered Maddie into my arms to comfort her. As you might imagine, with two loudly blubbering kids, we created quite a scene. I looked up to a few puzzled looks but was surprised to see many more understanding looks. One by one parents stopped by our table and spoke words of encouragement. “Our daughters cried the entire trip home their first year.” “Don’t worry, the tears mean they had a really great time.” “They won’t cry like this every year.” And one mom even had some advice for Maddie and Noah, “When you get home start counting down the weeks until next year. There are only 52 weeks until you come back!” Noah, who knows that a year is 365 days, looked up, took a deep breath and said, “only 52??”
There were more tears on the way home until blessed sleep took over. Once home Noah continued to cry off and on the rest of the day. He really missed camp. After I got over the surprise of the tears my heart began to smile.
I admit, I had high expectations for this camp experience. Maddie and Noah both had a tough school year. They were the only ones in their class, maybe their entire school, with craniofacial and speech disorders not to mention being adopted from China and learning a new language. They don’t exactly blend in with the other kids and were often teased. My hope was their being with other children who knew and understood what they were going through would help boost their self-esteem. I knew right away that it did.
The next day I showed them the pictures I had taken. When I scrolled to a group shot of Noah and all the boys in his dorm he named every single one. That may not seem like much to you but during the school year he couldn’t tell me the name of a single “friend” at school. Not even one. But this day, without even blinking an eye, he named 10 friends.
Maddie has struggled with her speech due to her cleft palate and Velopharyngeal insufficiency (VPI), but also with stuttering that had become quite severe. It didn’t take us long to realize when she told us all about camp, she didn’t stutter. Not. Even. Once.
At the end of my post in May I wrote, “I’m so proud of you two. You are the bravest people I know. I pray you make amazing memories and friends this week. I pray you also gain a little understanding about how amazing you are.“ Yes, I had high expectations for camp and and this time, my every expectation was exceeded. I offer my deepest and most heartfelt thanks to those at Camp Courage who worked so hard to make this happen. This mama’s heart is truly grateful.
Only 46 weeks to go!