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I just sent my boy off to scout camp crying...


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Please tell me I did the right thing. My 11 year old has big anxieties about camping. He had a bad time last year at webelos camp. It was his first time camping without dh. He got very upset and anxious at night, pretty much hysterical at times. He had a great time duting the day. After a few nights and a switch to a tent with a zipper to get rid of the bugs, he was okay the rest of the week.

 

This year he is in boy scouts. They are heading off to Camp Parsons which is several hours away. They are going by bus. Dh can't go, there was no room for extra parents at the camp. Ds has been working toward this all summer. He knew it would be hard. He has a tent with zipper (they are canvas tents at camp). He has a bug bivvy just in case. He has gone camping twice over the summer with the scouts and dh. He has been working this summer on redirecting his brain when he has anxious thoughts. He packed yesterday and got more and more anxious as the pack filled up. He cried much of the night last night, begging me not to make him go. Then he said he won't go. I comforted. I encouraged. I told him I was proud of how he has worked for this goal. Finally I told him that if he wasn't going to go, he needed to tell his scoutmaster that face to face which means meeting all the scouts at the bus. He knows his scoutmaster will make him go.

 

So dh just pulled away with him crying and still planning on telling the scoutmaster that he won't go. He is fully packed but doesn't have his uniform on as his show of protest (its in the car). He is going to be anxious, no doubt about it. Not going means his anxiety wins and that can make it bigger. Going means his anxiety might get worse because of a miserable experience. It seems like a no win situation. He was very upset with me and wouldn't even look at me as they pulled away. He said that it didn't feel like I loved him. I didn't let myself cry until he was out of sight.

 

I miss him and feel like I let him down.

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Can you trust the adults in your troop? My 12 year old son has anxiety, although not as bad as yours. To be honest, in your situation I probably woudn't have sent him without my dh. HOWEVER, I think he'll probably be fine. Camp Parsons is an incredible camp. My dh & ds loved it.

 

Do you have a scoutmaster's cell phone number? I'd want to hear if my ds doesn't adjust. He probably will though. :)

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Well, hopefully he'll be okay once he gets there. It's too late now, but maybe in the future you can make arrangements so that you can pick him up early from camp if it gets to be too much for him. That way, he might be more willing to try it, knowing he won't be "stuck" if he gets really anxious.

 

Lisa

Edited by LisaTheresa
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Oh - that's so hard - hugs :grouphug:

 

First, most Scoutmasters are really good about dealing with homesickness.

Second, scouts homesickness is always worse when their moms are around - so once you drove away, he might have gotten better.

Third, he will have a GREAT time at camp,even if he is homesick at night. With anxiety like his - if he didn't go this year, it would be the same next year.

 

If he can work through it - he will be very proud of himself, and glad he went.

I think putting the ball in his court (making him tell his SM in person) was a wonderful idea.

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It's too late now, but maybe in the future you can make arrangements so that you can pick him up early from camp if it gets to be too much for him. That way, he might be more willing to try it, knowing he won't be "stuck" if he gets really anxious.

 

Lisa

 

:iagree: Knowing that you have an "out" is a great resource for dealing with anxiety.

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The scoutmaster isn't going to be good with him. I know that. He is a "suck it up and go" kind of guy. But his old den leader will be there and knows him well and he is bunking with a child with special needs because of a hearing impairment and his dad will also be there. I trust both of these dads and so does ds. His bunkmate has had camping anxiety and I trust his dad to know the difference between a child who needs support and a child who is in over his head and needs to go home.

 

It sounds like many moms would not have made him go. But he wanted this and has worked all summer to build up his confidence so he could do it. How could I let him quit after all that? But yes, I should have given him an out from camp. Of course I know we will pick him up if we get a call that he isn't adjusting. I also know that boy scout leaders won't be quick to make a call like that. I really, really feel rotten.

 

Dh isn't back yet from dropping him off. I called him and he said ds calmed down after they left but got upset again when the bus arrived. Ds is on the bus now and in the hands of his patrol leader.

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I hope I didn't make you feel bad. My ds doesn't get that upset so it would have been a big red flag for me. We have different kids. :)

 

Yes, a lot of scoutmasters are of the suck it up attitude & it usually is good for the boys. But your ds is only 11. That is really young. Can you call that dad this evening? Your ds will probably be fine and grow from this experience. It is really hard on us moms when our kids are anxious or unhappy isn't it? :grouphug:

 

 

 

 

 

The scoutmaster isn't going to be good with him. I know that. He is a "suck it up and go" kind of guy. But his old den leader will be there and knows him well and he is bunking with a child with special needs because of a hearing impairment and his dad will also be there. I trust both of these dads and so does ds. His bunkmate has had camping anxiety and I trust his dad to know the difference between a child who needs support and a child who is in over his head and needs to go home.

 

It sounds like many moms would not have made him go. But he wanted this and has worked all summer to build up his confidence so he could do it. How could I let him quit after all that? But yes, I should have given him an out from camp. Of course I know we will pick him up if we get a call that he isn't adjusting. I also know that boy scout leaders won't be quick to make a call like that. I really, really feel rotten.

 

Dh isn't back yet from dropping him off. I called him and he said ds calmed down after they left but got upset again when the bus arrived. Ds is on the bus now and in the hands of his patrol leader.

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It's hard to say which way it will go. But, if he really does have a bad time, keep that in mind when next year rolls around. Dd18 was forced to go to camp for several years because her stepmom was the Scout leader. She too worked to get to camp but she had to because the whole troop was doing it. She does have some fond memories and it didn't ruin her for life. She has anxiety and would get physically sick the full week before camp started. Her stepmom and dad are the 'suck it up' type of people. They still don't believe she has anxiety. They think she's melodramatic and just wants attention. You aren't like that and your son knows it.

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Actually - the "suck it up" attitude - combined with good listening skills, and re-direction - is really the only thing that works.

Think about it this way - and maybe I'm alone here - but for example:

You've had a hard day, many bad things have happened, and you're upset, but you've managed to keep it together. Then you talk to your mom on the phone. All the sympathy starts you sobbing. The floodgates have been opened.

 

Same thing with the boys.

 

I would have sent mine. Better at 11 when it is expected than at 13 when all of the other boys have gotten over it already and he is considered "too old" to be that way.

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Thanks, everyone. I feel a little better. The interesting thing is that I am pretty used to dealing with anxiety. My younger son has had pretty bad social anxiety in the past and I have done a lot of research and even had him going to a therapist for over a year. I have played the push/don't push trade-off and I would set him up for small successes and build up to the big ones. I always gave him an out or he would dig his heels in hard.

 

Oldest son was much stronger until about a year ago. I guess I am in some denial of how bad his anxiety is. I want him to still be the strong, independent one. He loves camp and has gone every summer since he started scouts. He would have felt really bad about missing it. But I wouldn't have pushed younger son as hard as I did oldest son. I think when he comes back I'll let him know that I will try to give him more control of his fate in the future. Not really in a quit at the last minute way, but in a if things turn out as bad as you fear, then I will come get you kind of way.

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At 11, my son wanted to go but then gradually became so miserable during the week that we brought him home early. He just wasn't ready.

 

Honestly, were I you I probably would not have made him go, although as others have said he may end up loving it. Geez, it's so tough being a parent sometimes! :confused:

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I'm proud of you for holding it together and trying to help your son succeed with this. If he does come home at least he will know he tried, as opposed to him feeling bad he didnt even try to go...

 

I'm a big weenie and would have just let my son stay home. My kids know I'm a pushover.

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I remember around that same age my parents sending me to German camp over a couple of summers for a week. I had access to a pay phone and would call my mom begging her to pick me up. She would always kindly comfort me, but also not give in. After doing this for a couple of days, and realizing that my parents wouldn't bail me out, I finally adjusted and ended up having a good time. I am grateful now that they had me tough it out. I was a very introverted kid and really had a hard time with the more outgoing people at camp. I guess it just helped me to know that I could cope with uncomfortable situations and survive. I felt proud to have my parents pick me up knowing that I had made it through the week. My high anxiety daughter had a rough time at Girl Scout camp a few years back, but she also is able to draw upon this as a time when she was able to make it through a difficult situation. She has never wanted to go back, and I wouldn't make her, but I know that the experience will help her in the future. I often think that I don't know the future changes that could come upon my family and having coping skills will only help my kids to deal with whatever life throws at us.

 

Lesley

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I would have let my ds back out if he wanted to, but your son is not my son. You know your ds better than any of us here, his strengths, his weaknesses, his struggles, his triumphs. Maybe you made the right call.

 

Sometimes there are no easy answers. :grouphug:

 

:iagree:

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I have a house full of those with social anxiety. I would not have made him go. For many kids, camp is a wonderful, exciting part of childhood. I LOVED camp. But for some kids, this is not the case. I have an adult friend who still resents her parents for making her go to camp when she didn't want to, which she hated. My DD tried camp last year. I had to pick her up on day two. She won't be going again unless she wants to. Sorry. I KNOW how difficult this decision is it is hard to know what is best for each individual kid. :confused:

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I think you handled the situation very well.

 

It is so hard to worry about our kids' anxiety, isn't it? There certainly was no easy answer here -- your son needs to muddle through this, and he's doing it. If he hadn't gone, he'd have had to muddle through the disappointment. Now he's there, and he's working through his homesickness.

 

It sounds like there are some great dads there to help him along.

 

I bet he'll make it through and look back at this week as a significant accomplishment. Hang in there!

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I'm sorry if this hurts the OP's feelings, but if he were my ds, I never, ever would have made him go. I would have considered it mean and totally insensitive not to let him make the choice to stay at home. My ds is always welcome at home, and I would never force him to do something so entirely unnecessary as go to scout camp if he decided -- even at the very last minute -- that he didn't want to go. I'm pretty sure no one ever died by not going to scout camp, but if we were faced with the OP's situation, my ds would have felt incredibly betrayed and miserable that his own mom didn't care enough about his feelings to let him stay home, and I'm sure those feelings would last a long time, and be very painful.

 

I'm sure I'll get flamed for saying this, but this is a situation I simply can't comprehend. We're not talking about an adult; this is just a young kid who was obviously very anxious and fearful, and his parents know that the scout leader will not be sympathetic,so he will have absolutely no one to turn to if he gets scared during the night. What are his parents possibly hoping to accomplish by forcing him to face his fears in this way? (I'm sure they mean well, but the whole thing seems pointless to me. Why would anyone intentionally upset and frighten their child? What are they trying to prove?)

 

The only alternative I can think of when a child is fearful, yet would still feel badly about missing out on camp is to be sure that one of his parents went along on the trip as a chaperone (or whatever they call parents who go on scout trips!)

 

I'd go check on him first thing in the morning, and if he was still unhappy, I'd bring him right home -- after apologizing profusely for having been so unkind.

 

Ok, I just put on my flameproof suit, so let me have it.

 

Cat

 

EDITED TO ADD: Before anyone responds to my post (posted just a few minutes ago,) I wanted to edit it and apologize to the OP. I didn't delete anything, because I hate it when people delete a whole post and no one ever knows why, so I'm leaving it as-is, with an explanation. This situation reminded me of a former friend who always sent her kids to camp for several weeks each summer, even though they begged not to go, and had a miserable time there. My friend sent the kids away so she and her DH could take an extended vacation together, without the kids, and she had no sympathy for her dc at all. I know that the OP isn't that kind of mom, and I am so sorry if my post made it sound like I thought she was a terrible mother. I can tell that she was worried about her decision, and that she thinks the camp is the best thing for her ds. That's totally different than my former friend's attitude, but my first impression was that this was a similar situation. I just re-read the thread, and I now realize that I was dead wrong about the OP, and I hope she will accept my apology.

Edited by Catwoman
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Harsh. I think the OP made it clear that first, it was a decision she was agonizing over. Second, her son DID want to go to camp, but became fearful as it came closer. But it was something he prepared for all summer with the intention of going. Third, that she was looking at all the implications of the situation. IE, how overcoming this would help him face fears in the future, etc.

 

Personally, I can't say what I would do in the situation, but I do applaud her for considering all aspects instead of just wringing her hands and saying "Oh but he's unhappy" and keeping him home.

 

Edit: This post was made before the very nice edit above.

Edited by Mimm
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I wanted to say, "Good for you, Mom!" I had a mom who would bail me out all the time and I really regret it now. I wish so much that she had made me deal with so many things on my own or follow through. It is so hard as parents to know what is the "right" thing to do but I think you did well based on what I've read here. I have always had anxiety issues and feel some of it is because there has always been someone to help me out. I hope if I am ever in your situation I can handle it the same.

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For what it's worth, I would have done what you did. My oldest was a bit like that till he was about 11, and I had to push a few situations in order to let him see he could cope. (A few times I was the one crying, not him :001_huh:) I know it's a fine line though, between helping them get over the anxiety "hump" and pushing them beyond their limits. I think you're doing a great job. :grouphug:

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You are the one who knows how your son is about other events. I have two boy scouts and a Bear cub scout. Anxiety and nervousness is part of the process of growing and maturing. But there are also scouts who really aren't ready for certain experiences at certain times.

 

Yes, lots of scouts miss home the first couple days, then get so busy and accustomed to the schedule that they can't wait to go out again. It is a plus for your son that he's camped a couple weekends with the troop.

 

On the other hand, our troop had a scout with some additional issues who ended up being sent home from camp after a couple meltdowns.

 

You don't mention other issues like special needs diagnosis or medications for the anxiety. So it is hard for me to say what I would or wouldn't have done. I think I might have insisted that your dh attend (even if that means registering as an assistant scout master or committee member and doing the necessary BSA training to be a registered adult). In fact with our troop's scout who was sent home, he will probably not be allowed to camp overnight with the troop again unless one of his parents attends. (This is a special needs issue and has safety of the troop and the scout in mind. May not apply to your situation.)

 

I hope that things go well and that your son has a great time. However, you might want to consider what your schedule for the week will be if he comes home. My inclination would be to go ahead and start school, do spring cleaning or other tasks. I might plan several day hikes and other outdoor activities. I would not be substituting a bunch of fun family vacation type activities for the missed activities from camp. (All of this assumes that your son has the ability to consider his fears and the potential for various things to happen. If there are issues like Aspergers or other special needs, then my reaction would be quite a bit different.)

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Its okay. I've had the day to think about it. When my oldest son was born and I agonized over baby decisions my grandmother gave me some great advice and reassurance. She said, "Just love him." I do love him and he and I are very close. If I made a mistake we will both be okay. If there was a clear right thing to do in my mind I would have taken it. Its going to be a very long week, for me anyway. I do know that he will love the daylight hours. He does really love camp. He is afraid of the night hours and I'm sure they will be rough.

 

I called the nice dad this afternoon and he said that ds was fine. Scoutmaster took the phone and told me that this had better be the last time I call. Then he said he was joking. ha. ha. Nice dad got back on the phone and told me he was looking out for ds and he would send me an update. He could tell I was upset and he wasn't happy with scoutmaster for being a jerk. I would seriously considering taking ds from this troop if it weren't for the fact that scoutmaster will be gone after this year.

 

Edited to add: No, he doesn't have any special needs or challenges other than the anxiety which has only been bad the last year or two and never this bad. He is sensitive and has a short list of things that he will eat but he knows what he needs to do to keep his strength up with good nutrition. I'm confident that he won't disrupt the camp. Ds may take quite a bit of nice dad's time at night when he gets upset but he knew this was going to be an issue and stepped up to help ds. Nice dad is his patrol leader, or coach, or whatever they are called, and also a good friend.

Edited by talexand
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I would not have made him go. I hated camp as a kid and yet each year I'd go again after a year of my mom convincing me it would be fun. Different camps, different kids, different activities. I was always miserable. It was just not fitting to my introverted personality.

 

If I were you, I'd visit him at camp within 36 hours and take him home if he still wants to go home. And, I'd never do that again. I think feeling safe and welcome at home is more important than whatever lesson(s) you are trying to teach him.

 

I think his anxiety will be worse in the future because you took away his control by forcing the issue. I wouldn't do that again.

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I called the nice dad this afternoon and he said that ds was fine. Scoutmaster took the phone and told me that this had better be the last time I call. Then he said he was joking. ha. ha. Nice dad got back on the phone and told me he was looking out for ds and he would send me an update. He could tell I was upset and he wasn't happy with scoutmaster for being a jerk. I would seriously considering taking ds from this troop if it weren't for the fact that scoutmaster will be gone after this year.

 

 

:grouphug: Relief. I can see the same thing happening with our boys, especially ds2. We would have handled it exactly as you did, and I would have been a mess about it.

 

I'm glad it sounds like your son is being well looked after. :)

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On the other hand, if a Scout knows that mom will bail him out, it makes it harder for him to work to stay. EVERY Scout gets homesick, but almost every Scout is okay on Wednesday--Tuesday night is the hardest.

 

But, this is not correct. My ds11 leaves home willy nilly without a backward glance, lol. He spent 3 weeks consecutively away from home this summer. . . with only 28 hours at home in there. His third week was scout camp and he was only too happy to be there. I don't get it, but there you have it. He went to scout camp at 10 and likewise didn't mind at all.

 

Some kids take it easy; some take it hard. It's not the same for all of them.

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I'm sorry not to be able to say that I think it's going to be all right. I think you made a mistake, though with the best of intentions. (I think all parents make mistakes; I certainly have.) It sounds to me like your son has to choose between shame (of telling the Scout master in person with the other kids around) and anxiety. If his anxiety is that strong, I doubt that it will magically go away when he gets to camp. Hopefully, I'm wrong. But if I'm not, I think you need to think through damage control, like giving him a face-saving way to leave camp (if he goes) and help working through shame (either way in being asked to tell the scout master).

 

Does he get anxious about anything else? It sounds like his anxiety would meet a clinical level of significance. I would get him treatment a.s.a.p. if there is anxiety in any other area of life even if it's not to this level yet. Anxiety does not get better by being forced into "facing" it; it gets worse. If he's already seeing a therapist, the therapist should have worked with him to construct a plan for this without a humiliating part.

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On the other hand, if a Scout knows that mom will bail him out, it makes it harder for him to work to stay. EVERY Scout gets homesick, but almost every Scout is okay on Wednesday--Tuesday night is the hardest. My ds (an Eagle) has some anxiety about summer camp, but he's always glad he went, in the end.

 

I agree. I went to scout camp with 51 boys back in July. I was in charge of homesick scouts. By Wednesday, everyone was doing pretty well and only a couple were still having bouts of sadness.

No one died from homesickness. All of them were proud of themselves for completing a week of camp and getting those merit badges completed. I was exhausted from all the talking I did to keep boys distracted from thinking about home and my sons were a bit jealous since I barely spoke them all week.

 

He really will be fine. He'll do things that he never thought he would. He'll eat stuff that he wouldn't touch at home. He'll be dirtier than you ever thought was possible and he will have a great time.

 

You haven't let him down at all.:grouphug:

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I just got an update!

 

Ds was reportedly grinning from ear to ear this morning. He is having a great time and actually did fine last night. :hurray: Maybe he was so exhausted from being up worrying the night before that he fell asleep in spite of himself. I didn't expect a report this good. I am sooooooo relieved.

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I'm sorry not to be able to say that I think it's going to be all right. I think you made a mistake, though with the best of intentions. (I think all parents make mistakes; I certainly have.) It sounds to me like your son has to choose between shame (of telling the Scout master in person with the other kids around) and anxiety. If his anxiety is that strong, I doubt that it will magically go away when he gets to camp. Hopefully, I'm wrong. But if I'm not, I think you need to think through damage control, like giving him a face-saving way to leave camp (if he goes) and help working through shame (either way in being asked to tell the scout master).

 

Does he get anxious about anything else? It sounds like his anxiety would meet a clinical level of significance. I would get him treatment a.s.a.p. if there is anxiety in any other area of life even if it's not to this level yet. Anxiety does not get better by being forced into "facing" it; it gets worse. If he's already seeing a therapist, the therapist should have worked with him to construct a plan for this without a humiliating part.

 

I see what you're getting at here, but the key is that he wanted to go. It wasn't his parents' idea. So, the choices (anxiety or shame, as you describe them) were not imposed upon him. That's just where he found himself, and I don't think there was any way around it. It would have been very different if he didn't want to want to go.

 

And I think anxiety is a different beast for each individual. For me, avoiding the fear makes it bigger. I'm glad I've been 'forced' to confront certain issues in my life -- or else they may have 'grown' bigger and bigger in my mind.

 

My guess is that, way down deep somewhere, the OP knew her son could do this thing. And, from her last post, it seems that he IS doing it, and that's great. :hurray:

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I see what you're getting at here, but the key is that he wanted to go. It wasn't his parents' idea. So, the choices (anxiety or shame, as you describe them) were not imposed upon him. That's just where he found himself, and I don't think there was any way around it. It would have been very different if he didn't want to want to go.

 

And I think anxiety is a different beast for each individual. For me, avoiding the fear makes it bigger. I'm glad I've been 'forced' to confront certain issues in my life -- or else they may have 'grown' bigger and bigger in my mind.

 

My guess is that, way down deep somewhere, the OP knew her son could do this thing. And, from her last post, it seems that he IS doing it, and that's great. :hurray:

 

It depends on the level of anxiety. People with severe anxiety may desperately want to do something but the anxiety keeps them from it and forcing it does indeed make it worse. I'm so glad for the OP that her son did well, and if he doesn't have anxieties in other areas, this might not be an anxiety disorder.

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I just got an update!

 

Ds was reportedly grinning from ear to ear this morning. He is having a great time and actually did fine last night. :hurray: Maybe he was so exhausted from being up worrying the night before that he fell asleep in spite of himself. I didn't expect a report this good. I am sooooooo relieved.

 

:D

 

You're his momma, and you knew what he needed, and you followed through even though it was hard. Good job!! You rock!

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I just got an update!

 

Ds was reportedly grinning from ear to ear this morning. He is having a great time and actually did fine last night. :hurray: Maybe he was so exhausted from being up worrying the night before that he fell asleep in spite of himself. I didn't expect a report this good. I am sooooooo relieved.

 

 

Excellent! I am glad that it is working out!! I was halfway through reading the thread and wondered if exhaustion might overwhelm anxiety at night and let him sleep well and without worries. They really get worn out during the day!

 

Even before I read your update, I would have agreed with your choice to have him go. Esp. since you knew that "nice dad" was there, clued in and happy to help. I think facing our fears is a big part of growing up and scout camp is a great experience.

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