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Class Trip Preparation, Phase 1, Now Underway

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Dear Kay,
The news from Blacksburg, Virginia, has been on my mind ever since I heard about it yesterday. The students, their families, their friends, the staff. Terrible, just terrible. My heart goes out to them all.
It’s not the sort of thing you want to dwell on when packing up your fella for a class trip. Last night, David and I sat down with a packing list and a Sharpie, ready to label everything for his first class trip away from school: three days of “learning experiences” at a state park a couple of hours away. I tried to focus on the considerable number of garments he was told to bring. Why so many pants? What are they going to be doing? It’s safe to say that he could mount an assault on Mount Everest with the gear he’s taking.
Once we got in the mood, we were labeling everything–socks, shirts, individual Band Aids, his toothbrush–and it was fun to see him scurry around the house digging up the Required Flashlight With New Batteries and the Optional Deck of Cards. We rolled up the Required Sleeping Bag. When he went to find the Required Fourth Pair of Shorts, I got all weepy as I looked at his pile of stuff. His stuff! His poignant, 11-year-old pile of stuff!
I hadn’t really thought about it, but as I sat staring at all those well-labeled socks, I realized that he’s never been away from home for two nights in a row. Can you believe that? It’s not like we’ve locked him up; it’s just that he’s not all that old. I’ve spent quite a few days away from him, but in my mind, he’s always right here at home. Two nights? What are we going to do?
I keep thinking about the day he will head off to college, and how great that will be, and how excited he’ll be, and I wonder how I will ever manage to let him go.
Love,
Ann

57 Comments

57 Comments

  1. Don’t worry! I’m sure he’ll never leave you! Why would he leave you?
    When the time comes, you and David can room with Carrie and her dad in the dorm they’ll surely build, by then, for parents who want to come along just in case they’re needed.
    xoox Kay

  2. I know exactly how you feel. My daughter has been going to camp for years and I’ve handled it well, however, she is graduating high school in June and off to college in the fall. I’m not sure I can handle that one as well as camp. Time flies to quickly, enjoy every moment :-)

  3. Sweet.
    When I was at the pediatrician with my baby daughter for the umpteenth non-descript fever over 101º, I asked if the worrying ever got better. She got a wistful look in her eye and said, “When they are little, they get sick and you worry, then they go to school and you worry, then they start to drive and you worry, then they go off to college…”
    I guess the answer was No, the worrying never gets any better.
    My kids call me the Worrier Princess and claim I can ruin anything.

  4. when I come looking here at this blog it’s for the humor and knitting……today you made me cry
    Carolyn in NC, mother of 10 and 12 year-olds

  5. I know the feeling :-) My DD just got back from outdoor lab school (a whole week in the mountains with her class) It was a touch tough to swallow for a mother, the whole week gone thing. But she did great. Still, last night I held my babies a little closer than usual.

  6. WHAT???
    No bikinis for the fifth grader!?
    The fifth grade trip was my kids’ favorite by far.

  7. I like the instruction that ALL of those items must fit in a soft sided suitcase or duffel that an 11-year-old can carry, along with the backpack, sleeping bag and pillow. I wonder if this packing/carrying is the first test of the class trip.
    When my brother (the only boy in the midst of 4 girls) was 8, he told my mother that he would never leave her and that he would never get married. She asked him what he was going to do when he grew up and he said he was going to take care of his Mama and cook for her. She told him that Daddy would take care of her and that he should find a wife of his own. He said, “I don’t think you’ve thought this through. It is better if I stay with you.”

  8. Did he giggle over the “no bikinis” rule? What are water shoes??? Those were never on my camp list. Flip flops?

  9. Seriously? How many of those garments will get used for REAL? I’m betting he wears the same pair of pants for the first two days, then changes into a second pair so you get a clean kid when he comes home. ditto on the t-shirts.

  10. As a camp staff person, I would guess that some or all of the clothes are going to get wet, and you want some that are then dry to change into. If they’re really having fun, this may happen more than once a day! Water shoes are not flip-flops, but those mesh things with good grippy soles so that little feet don’t get hurt by sharp objects. Sorry, we live in a litigious society and everything is the camp’s fault! Even something that would normally be no big deal at home would be grounds for a lawsuit if it happened on anybody else’s watch…sigh. Where I work, we hope that all this “risk management” is invisible to kids, but reassuring to parents (some of whom may be, as we note, worriers!)

  11. Wow, how the world has changed. I went off to sleepaway camp at 7 for 8 weeks and saw my parents one day in the middle–I don’t know anyone who would do that now.

  12. Are you getting him a Sherpa to carry everything for the assault on Everest? He’ll never pick it all up!
    A friend’s 11 yr old has just been away on a football tour with school (only child) – they were over the moon at the chance of a parental week alone and promptly hightailed off on their own adventure to North Africa! Not that they don’t love him, but, you know, personal space and all that. Have an adventure, Ye who are Left Behind!

  13. It happens in steps. I’m at the “when will he get out of here?” phase. Then, I panic. That’s life with a very independent 17- year old.
    Think of the things David will find out about himself on this trip – now that’s exciting! And he’s at the age where he will share it with you when he gets home.
    I wish him a safe and happy trip!

  14. When he is ready for college you will be ready to be rid of him (for awhile any way). Something about those teen hormone rages that make the departure for college easier. However, with the horror at Virginia Tech can we ever be secure that college is a “safe” place for our children?

  15. My guess, after years of experience with school trips, is that he will come home in the same clothes he was wearing when he left. The only things he will have removed from the over-stuffed bag will be the flashlight and maybe the cards. Yet somehow the bag will be full of dirt and pine needles.
    My advice – put the socks directly in the trash. Do not even attempt to wash them. The rest of the clothes may be salvagable, but don’t count on it.

  16. It is a certainty that you will never cease to worry about your babies. But letting them go college wasn’t that difficult for me, because after all, isn’t it a parents duty to raise their children to go boldly and confidently out into the world?

  17. You’ll never be able to able “to let him go.” I was on the phone with my college sophomore daughter many times yesterday – she was scared to leave her dorm room – in COLORADO! My son graduates this year and is headed for the Air Force, and my youngest daughter will be a HS senior next year – planning on college in Indiana. My husband is an active duty soldier soon to be heading back to Iraq. It doesn’t matter how far they go or how long they’re gone, as long as they know that “home” is always where the people who love them the most (and that would be you!)are, and “home” will always be there, then they can tackle anything life throws at them. Me, I rack up some serious amounts of therapeutic knitting minutes, hours, days – you get the idea!

  18. I just found out yesterday that my 21 yr old daughter has been accepted to a volunteer program for 2 yrs in PERU and that is not Peru, Indiana! She is thrilled, but won’t be home for 2 yrs. I gotta find a kleenex now…

  19. Sorry to say, every time I pack up to head back to school after a vacation, I’m still pretty much a poignant 11-year-old with a poignant pile of stuff. Eight years doesn’t add much to that. Except that now I’m aware of how young I am.
    ps. Since this is my first comment ever, I want to say hi! to Kay, because after reading this blog for several months I found out that my roommate, Rachel, is her niece!

  20. Oh, Ann – you described me perfectly, only my son’s first camp experience was last summer just after he turned 12. The list looks similar, but I thought the week was longer than 5 1/2 days! I had sent an empty kitchen garbage bag with him, instructing him to put dirty clothes in it once he was done wearing them and to be sure to shower every day. Can you guess what happened? He came home and most of his luggage was filled with clean clothes. He said, “Guess what, Mom? I didn’t really need many clothes and I only showered once because we swam in the lake most days and nothing got really dirty so I kept wearing it.” I think these short trips help to get us ready for the Big Break to college. But, honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever be prepared.

  21. I have been a long time reader of your blog but have never been compelled to comment until I read your kind words sent out to the Virginia Tech community. As a recent graduate of the University, I appreciate your sentiments and just ask for continued thoughts and prayers as more details emerge. It hurts my heart to see the community going though this, but I know that the Hokies will pull together and come through stronger than ever.

  22. Hey Ann-I live in Blacksburg and we did have friends involved and hurt and I just wanted to say I appreciate your thoughfulness and kind words-give your boy an extra squeeze before he leaves-life is precious.

  23. Wow, not many people know about Peru, Indiana – Circus Capital of the World! As a Hoosier, I’m always happy to hear mention of my home state. I wish your daughter the best, and what a great adventure, in the other Peru!

  24. Like Stephanie B, I went to sleepaway camp at age 7 for 8 weeks at a time with one parents’ day in the middle. So did my sister. We loved it. I am not sure that the world is any different today–probably as many terrible things happened in the 60s and 70s as now. I think that the information age has made our awareness of them must more instantaneous, real, and omnipresent. So fear, that old troublemaker, has become a constant companion, much more so than in previous decades.

  25. I have 4 sons and a daughter. My sons are 24,21, 18 and 10. When the older ones were 15-16, I couldn’t WAIT for them to leave !!! I packed their stuff.” Here’s your hat what’s your hurry?”
    They get kind of surly, grumpy and a little stinky for awhile. BUT then they come back from college, when they’re around 20-21, and they are human again… You have got to L O V E those 10-11 year olds while you can and remember how awesome they are/were when they turn into teenagers

  26. Mine are 10 and 12. I hear you. This is a great age.

  27. Hi Ann!
    My 5th grade daughter recently returned from a similar campout with her classmates at a state park too. She loved it – they learned how to build a fire, animal tracking, shelter-building, orienteering. They were outside 90% of the day, in the Wisconsin cold and snow. She took a lot of clothes too but I don’t know how much she wore – they all came home in the same bag with a lot of pine needles and dirt! It might take a day or two to hear all the scoop once he gets back…he’ll be so tired out from all that wildernessin’….a lot of kids took disposable cameras, you might add that to the pile.

  28. I firmly believe that this is how I became a person who overpacks. He’s going to be away for two nights, so really, he should only have to get dressed away from home two times, and yet, he’s supposed to bring SEVEN different things to put on his lower body and THREE jackets. I hope he’s been lifting weights, because it seems like this is going to be a heavy bag…

  29. I, too, got a bit misty eyed as you touched on a subject close to my heart. My kids are long out of the nest but they took a piece of my heart with them when they flew. Fortunately, we are very close and are on the phone or email as often as possible but they live too far for frequent visits. That’s the part that’s hard to take. That’s the misty eyed sad part. Make him sign a pact that he will never live farther away than, say, a 50 mile radius from wherever you live (just in case you move, you don’t want to say Nashville). Then, pick his wife!!

  30. When it’s time for college, just make sure you’re enrolled too ;)

  31. Awwww! I’m sending my 10-year old for 6 DAYS and 5 NIGHTS to an outdoor skills camp and it’s making me crazy that I’m old enough to have a kid that can go away for a week! Eeek! I’ll miss him so much…

  32. Yes, and then, just as you get your heart around that separation, they tell you they want to spend a semester overseas and you hear yourself saying, “Oh honey, I don’t know that you can learn much about another country in one semester. Maybe you should spend the whole academic year there.”

  33. My oldest is a high school junior. And let me tell you, yesterday I was very glad that he’s pretty much only considering schools in our home state. Yes, I over-mother my kids. I just can’t seem to help it. I’m an Olympic-caliber worrier myself (love the Worrier Princess!) And recent events just give me more to worry about.
    I’m off to knit on my Afghan For an Afghan baby. Thanks again for the heads up on the Mother’s Day drive. This blanket is the only thing keeping me sane right now. Okay, sane-ish. :-)

  34. What you will do is knit because that’s all I can think to do. My son is only four and I cannot imagine. Yet, life is not much fun if we cannot live it and explore the world. We gave them life so they could enjoy it, as much as we enjoy them, right? Yeah, okay. Sounds good. Now, I think I will go weep and knit.

  35. That’s quite a list of things to bring- 4 pairs of pants and shorts each? And only 1 towel?
    I don’t take that much on my 2 night 3 day trips when I go camping or hoteling.

  36. For those who read your blog AND the comments, apropos of yesterday’s events at Virginia Tech, I’d like to recommend a wonderful book by a man named Greg Gibson whose son was killed at college by a disturbed student with all-too easy access to an automatic weapon. The book is called “Gone Boy” and describes the father’s journey to some kind of knowlege of how such a thing could happen. It’s heartbreaking, beautiful and even funny in places. He talks about the largely clueless college administration, and the devastation amongst the family and friends that lasted for years, including the family of the shooter. Read it. It seems that nothing ever changes.

  37. I was looking over that list and I was thinking of the list of things that young Harry Potter at age 11 needed for his first year at Hogwarts: dragon hide gloves, a no.2 pewter cauldron, a pet (owl or rat), a wand, several sets of robes, etc. I think your son’s list rivals this in every way. :)

  38. When my daughter went on a similar trip, she could have used TWICE the # of pants required, because of the rain–jeans just do NOT dry for AGES during rainy weather–even indoors.
    Usually, when it is closer to the send-off date you can make a decision about leaving out some things (I only sent her with one set of shorts, because it was EXTREMELY unlikely the kids would see sun, much less heat).
    You listen to Joan the camp staffer up there early in the comments.

  39. Not to be crass … but someday, maybe not soon, you’ll want his room to store yarn.
    On the other hand, one day you’ll wake up and take into account what a fine human he is and you’ll know he has work to do in the world and you’ll let him go do it.
    Either way, it’ll be ok.

  40. i began sobbing 6 months before my first born went away to college. it’s good to practice ahead!

  41. Honestly the way the universe runs is when it’s time to go he will have been a teenager for a while and it won’t be so bad to get your life back.

  42. My sons were in Drum & Bugle Corps and never took that much stuff for longer times away. I was a real Earth Mother, yet when my three left home I changed the locks (well, two of the three had keys…) Here’s a tip: Look at the face of your sleeping children. In them, you will see their sweet infant faces! It’s true! Even when that sleeping face is bearded, and the big muscle-y arms are tattooed. What an experience.
    And – to all of the citizens of Virginia: my heart is breaking that you are sharing that nightmare experience. I hope in time you will feel the warmth, the sadness, the prayers flooding in your direction from, I daresay, the whole country. (Thanks, Ann, for letting us say that here.)

  43. I just went through a similar experiance…my two youngest sons–ages 11 and 12 went camping with the Boy Scouts this weekend. It’s the first weekend BOTH have been gone. The house was so empty and quiet. Guess it’s time to start getting used to that…And as for the packing…the person who wrote they’ll wear the same pants all weekend is right on target!! Including the comment on the socks!! Toss after the weekend…if they don’t walk themselves to the trashbin!

  44. I’m right there with you Girl.

  45. My son has been on two school camp trips, one last spring at the end of 5th grade and another last fall at the start of 6th. It is very nerve racking from the parental perspective. The kids get excited though. Label things well. On the first trio my son came home with a pair of undershorts that were not his. We didn’t feel we could go around to all the 5th grade rooms and say “Hey is this someones underwear?” He managed to not loose any of his things on that trip but did break his glasses. When I picked him up he looked a bit like Harry Potter did when he left the Dursley’s.
    The second trip he was in a very noisy cabin and got a horrible headache but a great EMT saved the day giving him Tylenol and letting him sleep that night in the first aid cabin. My advice to you while he is gone is to keep very busy and knit a lot. Amy

  46. For me, the short trips – a week at scout camp or at a friend’s – for my three daughters or son were never overly emotional. I knew they were nearby if something happened. It was a bit harder when my 12 year old son went to China for 17 days last year. I was the last parent out of the airport! Fortunately, they had a blog site that had me hunting for his picture every day (waiting for the blog info to appear was agony!). He’s going to Australia this year – I might leave the airport a little earlier, but they better blog at the same time each day or I’ll go crazy! For new moms – let the kids stay at grandma’s for a night or two every year when they are young. They’ll love it, grandma will love it, you will learn to love it, and you and your children will learn how to cope away from each other. We need to give our children wings to fly and provide that loving place for them to fly back to. My thoughts and prayers to the Hokie community.

  47. Gosh, I don’t think I’ve ever even owned 4 pairs of shorts at once. I guess they’re expecting boys to be boys… I think I was 9 or 10 when my parents started sending me off to a week long summer camp. I don’t know how they delt with it, but all us kids loved a week away. However I was always glad to be home again. I’m sure you’ll be welcomed with a big hug when he gets home.

  48. Ocassionally I drive my 11 year old Josie crazy by telling her that I’m going to college with her, that I should have time to finish up my degree then. I always tell her she can have the top bunk. And then I remember that she really will leave, and yep, I wonder how I’ll ever manage.
    On the other hand this weekend she’s going to a sleepover–party at my house! Whoopeee!

  49. I’m in the process of packing up my newly 12yr old daughter to go off to Outdoor school next week. She’s the youngest of three. It’s been a “how’d they get here so fast” thing with each child. How DO they get to that age so fast?! OY! having a severe Mommy moment….

  50. My oldest went to Boy Scout Camp for 3 days when he was 11 – first time away from home. They had three days of continuous rain, he came back with everything soaking, dripping wet, including his sleeping bag. Only items that were absolutely bone dry were his towel, flannel, and toothbrush…..
    There’s not much you can do to stop them growing up and away – but they do come back. And no, you don’t ever stop worrying, it’s just the things that you worry about change. Nowadays it’s ‘will they be able to afford the new interest rate hike on their mortgage?’. And now there are the grandchildren to worry about too, all these ‘adventure’ holidays……

  51. My husband went to China for three weeks with less stuff. Typical American over-consumption!!

  52. I too remember going away to camp for weeks at a stretch. I’m not sure how old I was the first time, but certainly by 10. It was usually more like 3 or 6 weeks than 7 or 8, but still. (one was only 2).
    I’ve looked, each year, for a camp like the ones to which I went to send my daughters to. I find either — scary, I wouldn’t dream of sending my daughters off to THAT, or — marvelous, wonderful, how many THOUSAND dollars??? and very far away.
    But I still wonder about the clothes thing. FOUR pairs of pants for two days seems a bit extreme.
    I hope he has a grand time.

  53. You never stop worrying but your ability to let them go and contain your worry helps to instill in then a sense of self-reliance, self-esteem and a knowlege that you believe in them. Our daughter went 6 weeks to Japan in the summer between jr-sr year of high school. WHen the typhoon hit that area of Japan I though I would have to jump start my heart. My son went with his Sanish class to Mexico between jr-sr year and lost their chaperone. No I did not know until they returned. The first night home fromdropping daughter at college, 2 hrs away the tears fell into my dinner plate.Today they are 39 and 42 and they often talk about summer camp with scouts from age 9, church camp and overseas trips . How good they felt that we thought they could handle these things and why more parents did not let their children have these experiences. A lot of research into these trips, a lot of love and the experience of having other parents accuse us of SENDING our children away so we could have a break. WE helped them grow and you will too. Good luck, but I still worry when they fly, raft, bungee jump and stay out until the wee hours. I’m a parent just as mine worried.

  54. Having a college freshman and a college junior I can tell you that you don’t really let them go. You grit your teeth, stare at the phone in an effort not to bug them too much, encourage them to test their wings and pray, hope, trust in them.
    I’m still gritting my teeth and staring at the phone and it’s been three years now since DD left, only to return for all too short vacations. I did such a good job that she’s currently in Egypt for the whole school year. I think I should stop encouraging them so much. :-)

  55. When my daughter left for college, I had to close the door to her room, because every time I passed it I started crying. Even the cat quit eating from sadness.
    After about 6 months, I realized how much new freedom I had, and I LOVED it.
    Of course, at age 24, she still calls me daily…

  56. Both my boys went on 1-3 night wilderness-type overnights with their [Minneapolis public school] class. The oldest’s favorite part? Getting to light a fire by — omigod! the thrill! — striking matches All By Himself! It’s those little bits of independence that thrilled him.
    Now he is 22, spent 6 weeks between jr and sr year of high school at the University of Michigan, left us in rural Wisconsin to go to college at New York University in Greenwich Village, spent a semester abroad in South Africa (where he was held up in broad daylight at knife point in downtown Durban, but we don’t dwell on that), and will spend the year after graduation volunteering at a clinic in Chiapas, Mexico (which essentially seceded from Mexico in the 1990s and has practically no infrastructure). I am the world champion nonworrier mom, but even I got shook up over the knife point thing.
    If we do our job as parents right they will leave us. What a payoff, huh? But it’s the way of life. Nobody in their right mind wants a kid like my husband’s cousin Jimmy who lived in his parents’ basement until he was in his 50s and then moved — with his mother — to his sister’s house when his 90-yo father died.
    Our goal is to give ‘em wings to fly and roots to feel secure. Beyond that we wrap ‘em in love and hope for the best.

  57. DS will have a blast. We packed up the 8 YO for summer camp last year, your list looked familiar, and she was so happy. You will also have a blast until he comes home, either with a pile of laundry or a backpack that is packed exactly as it left the house. Don’t think about it is my advice. PS – maybe because I have a daughter, she didn’t lose anything on the trip.
    Liza the Blogless