Sometimes we make decisions and we absolutely know with confidence that they are the right ones. That we are making the best choice we can. More often than not though, we decide to do something and then hope for the best. Many things in life are a shot in the dark.
That is what we felt about our decision to send our oldest to sleep away camp. For more than a year everyone and their brother had been trying to convince us to do it. They swore up and down that this camp was Disney World for kids with special needs and that it was the absolute best thing we could do for him and for our family. With all that encouragement we felt that we had to give it a try. And so on June 27thI packed him up and sent him, accompanies by his father, to NY for 7 weeks. As we drove to the airport with our child crying and saying he wasn’t going, we looked at each other and said “one summer! We will try it but after this time we will not force him to go again”.
Even with all the assurances that he would have a blast and all the smiley, happy pictures that were being sent to us by his counselors and our “spies” in camp, we were still not sure we made the right choice. My husband and I fretted nightly. We worried that he was homesick; we felt that no one could care for his as well as we could and that he would simply not enjoy it.
A few Sundays ago was visiting day. My husband and I left the 2 younger kids with my in laws and headed to NY. We were so excited, literally jumping out of our skin. We could not wait to see him. We battled a delayed flight, a confused GPS and made it about an hour and a half late. As I walked into the camp scanning for my boy, I suddenly heard out of the corner of my ear “hi Mommy” and my heart melted. I have never had such an amazing hug in my entire life. We laughed, we cried and smiled ear to ear.
From the moment we got there he had a huge grin on his face. We met all of his friends, we were stopped by countless staff members saying to us “Are you YoYo’s mom and dad? I love him, he is amazing, he is my favorite”. Our son took us from place to place showing us what he does all day and simply being together and having fun. It was a perfect day.
About an hour into our visit my husband looked at me and said “it is such a weight off”. It really was. As I said, it seemed like he was having fun but until we saw it with our own eyes we couldn’t be sure. We couldn’t know how right our decision was. That sending our son to a place where being different is the norm was exactly right. That we were sending him in to the arms of an 18 year boy who is so incredible and so loves our child and with whom he has probably formed what will be a lasting and wonderful friendship. That he would make real friends, his own age!
That we would three days later receive two separate pictures of him smiling with his arm around his bunkmates. That this would truly be even better than Disney Land. It is better because at Camp Hasc everyone is like him where as at Disney Land, no one is.
There was one thing though, that everyone got wrong. Everyone talked about how important this was for our other children and about how we needed a break. No one told me how desperately we would miss him, how I would feel like my right arm was missing. That my other children would ask for him daily. That getting that good shabbos call each Friday would become what I would wait for each week. That visiting day would be the happiest day of my entire summer.
And so I have learned something incredibly valuable. I have learned that I do not need a “break” from him and that sending him away was not for me. I have learned that sending him to camp was entirely for him. That giving him this experience was absolutely the right thing to do for him because he deserves to be somewhere where everyone thinks he is a rockstar, where no matter what he does he is perfect in their eyes. Where kids much younger than me choose to spend their summer caring for and loving for kids like mine. I am blown away by this camp and by the people who work there. I wish I could say that I would have been one of those kids who volunteer to work at camp Hasc. But I am honest enough to say that I wouldn’t have been.
– Miriam Mark