I can hardly believe it's been four weeks since my last post, seven weeks since my children hit U.S. soil and the end of their five weeks in camp. Yesterday was their last day and when I picked them up my son ran to me, jumped into my arms and hugged me tightly. He whispered in my ear, "Mommy I was a good boy. I love you, mommy, thank you so much!" This is the type of greeting that I've been fortunate enough to get from both of my children every evening that I've picked them up from their day at camp. Still, yesterday was extra special. Kids were gathered around, music was playing, everyone was saying their goodbyes and looked at my two angels and had to hold back the tears. My baby doesn't miss a thing and said, "Mommy your eyes, are you crying? It's okay, mom."
They had a big last day celebration with a cookout and gifts. We had stopped that morning at the grocery store to pick up four dozen cupcakes -- if your name was S - Z you had to bring a dessert. The kids carried the cupcakes and had to tell them it was for sharing. Today everyone would share. Now the day was over, and I walked through the park district lobby thinking back to that first nervous day that I'd dropped them off. We'd come a long, long way. When I got to the bottom of the stairs and entered the room were the kids were waiting, I heard kids say look it's your mom! Over the weeks these kids had asked me, if I was African, why did Wonderson constantly repeat his ABC's, why was the Princess so quiet, why did the Princess love stickers so much, and one little girl asked or told me that she was going to be giving my son a test on his behavior. I'd been asked why my kids like to hug so much and one little girl told me she had moved here from Pakistan and wanted to know the name of the country my kids were from? But, the question no one asked was whether or not I was really their mother. I actually met a woman in the parking lot one day that said how the little peanut most be your son, I saw you and knew right away because he looks just like you. I smiled and told her everyone says so.
It took us about 15 minutes to get out of the door with all of the kids calling my kids by name and asking for their last hugs. One little girl came up to me and asked if my kids could please come back to winter camp? Another little girl came up and told me how she loved both of my children but wondered why I didn't speak with an accent like they did. I actually had tears in my eyes seeing how many friends they had made and how adored they were by the camp counselors. Two of them gave me their numbers and told me that if I ever needed a babysitter to give them a call. We did it, we made it through the camp season without incident, without losing a lunch box or jacket, without losing a swimsuit, shoe, or towel. My baby did lose a tooth but that was way back in week one. He has four loose now and I'm sure by the time school starts he will be struggling to gum his food.
I was so apprehensive that first day, I wondered whether I was doing the right thing; if it was too soon or if the kids would be okay? I can tell you it was the best decision I could have made for them and their counselors agreed. Wonderson started with maybe five words of English in total and now talks non-stop using four and five-word sentences. He was a definite challenge for the counselors in the beginning and somewhere in week two or three they asked for strategies to manage his behavior. They actually believed that because he didn't speak English that he should be coddled. I told them those were not my expectations that I wanted them to work with me to help get him prepared for school.
I brought him home the day after I'd come early and caught him defiantly disobeying his teacher. We went to his room and I had a stern talk with him. I asked him, "Do you understand me?" And when he shook his head no, I realized it was a 50/50 chance that he really had no idea what I was saying. I got down on his level and made the instructions as simple as possible. I sent my son to school each day with simple instructions, "When the teachers say sit, you sit, when they say stand you stand, come you come, go you go!" When we'd get out of the car walking towards the door I say, sit he would say, "I sit." I would say stand, he would say, "I stand." Each day I was told how much better he was doing at following directions. We were a team working together on his behalf. They even taught my son how to tell time and to count backwards. He is really good at it and even though he learned it through his many time-outs I believe all learning is valuable. He now thinks it is a good strategy at home and often tells mommy or his sister that we are in time-out for five or ten minutes.
In the five weeks of camp my children have had so many experiences, more than I could have done. Each day they were anxious to go and each day they came home with new names of friends they'd made, told me who had shared chips with them, or sung songs. They rode big busses on weekly field trips to Lincoln Park Zoo, Kiddie Land, Coves Landing Water park. Each week they went on a nature hike at the nature park and swam in the pool or hung out at the splash pad. They watched movies in the park theater, they went to concerts, and they made friend. My son sat in the backseat one day sing Yellow Submarine, my daughter came home with many art projects.
They had a GREAT time!
As we got in the car and drove away yesterday, I smiled listening to the excitement in their voices as they talked over each other to tell me stories about the day. My son had thrown his backpack in the front seat with me as he had done every day but today he wanted me to reach inside and give him a plastic bag filled with goodies. He searched through the bag and at the stoplight said, "Mommy this is for your finger." He handed me a green horseshoe ring with pride. "Put it on finger, Mommy! It's for you!" I put it on and he said, "Show me...it's good mommy, good!" He was very pleased with himself and I was just as proud to wear his ring. There is a catch; however, when I don't move as fast as he would like or do what he thinks I should do, he asks for his ring back. When I have done enough to earn it, he gladly places the ring back on my finger.
They have two weeks before real school starts. I just can't wait!