Family

My kid is trying to break out of summer camp

Aviva Rubin's son wants to leave summer camp and come home. What's a parent to do?

1SummerCampBreakOut-August2013-iStockphoto

Photo: iStockphoto

Follow along as guest contributors share parenting stories from their own personal experiences.

“Hi, I think that I want to go home on Visitors Day. Wait!!! Don’t get mad yet, read on.”

The letter arrived from camp a week after the first phone call informing us that our 10-year-old son was homesick — usually during down time, after meals and in the evening before bed. He’d make the rounds and lobby anyone in a position of perceived authority. His case: Three-and-a-half weeks away from home is too long for a someone his age — although he’d only been there for four days at that point. Otherwise, he seemed to be having a fine time.

Just shove a knife in my heart and twist it.

Read more: How to help your kids get ready for camp >

He sought grounds for leaving through multiple visits to the infirmary for stomachaches and headaches. The camp doctor assured us that his stomach was soft, that he was eating (a lot of bread and jam) and going to the washroom regularly. Diagnosis: psychosomatic.

Last year, he was there for two weeks without a cramp. It helps to know he is not severely ill but the pain is real. And now I feel sick — a combination of resentment, guilt and sympathy pain.

I sent an email saying how much I loved camp when I was a kid and how important it was to focus on all the great stuff that was going on. Really, what I wanted to suggest was that he wait two weeks before hauling out the ailments and not spoil it (for everyone) right from the beginning.

But he’s smart enough to know that an effective emotional assault needs to begin early, hit regularly, and build in intensity.

“I have exactly 38 bites (not all of them itch at one time),” he writes. You have to love the honesty.

We know we can’t cave. There has been a lot of manipulation at home over the last few months and if we let him leave camp we’ll pay for it over the next eight years.

“I love you and I miss you. I hope you can get a refund and thank you. See you on Visitor’s Day (the day I leave.),” he continues.

When he spots me on Visitor’s Day he sprints over and throws the full weight of his body against me — laughing and crying. He strategically reveals that, in anticipation of coming home, he has not sent anything to the laundry. I do the sniff test.

Our 13-year-old, also there for the summer, doesn’t help the situation by suggesting we reconsider because it’s painful watching his brother wander around the dining hall, crying after meals.

We decide to go with a bribe. If the kid hangs in and has fun for the final six days, he can get the drum kit he’s been asking for.

Read more: Summer camp: 10 fun care package ideas >

We leave him with candies, comic books, a new Nerf sword and no other options for getting home. It’s hard to say who won this battle.