Saturday, July 16th 2011
Battle Lines, DRAWN.

Ethan-11yr is home safe from camp. I missed him terribly. His precious Mickey Mouse voice is back. His perpetually stick-uppy hair is back. His sweetly freckled face and deep brown eyes are back.

And yet?

I am so irritated with him I’m in the other room so that I don’t get in his beautiful little face and GRIPE.  (And what a lovely homecoming that would be.)

Last year I overwhelmed the child with stamped, addressed envelopes for about 12 people and I hoped he’d write everyone letters in the oh, SIX days he’d be gone. I was a camper. I did it. I still have the embarrassing letters I wrote to my grandmother on Garfield stationery to prove it (because my sister ended up with them, and she’s the last person you ever want to be in possession of anything embarrassing, because she’ll NEVER throw it away). And last year, Ethan-11yr tried hard with my request but only wrote a few letters, for which I applauded the effort.

This year, I told him I thought I’d asked too much of him last year and was only giving him THREE stamped, addressed envelopes but please, please, please, if you only write one letter, WRITE YOUR MOMMY.  I got in his face with the Big Eyes as I said those 3 words. He laughed.  He agreed. He got on the bus after he AGREED to write his mommy.

I should have had him sign a contract. In hindsight, I realize that was the smart thing to do. Verbal agreements are supposed to be legally binding, just like written agreements, but really? The power of the written word means so much more, and this is no exception. If I’d whipped out a contract and a pen before letting him get on the bus, instead of the Big Eyes, I think the results might be different. (His friends would have teased him on the bus for the next 4 hours about why his crazy mother forced a contractual agreement on him in the parking lot, but WHATEVER. Those scars would heal.)

I wrote letters. I asked his brothers to write letters and they did a great job. I sent him emails and set it up so that family members could also send him emails. I SHOWERED that sweet baby in mail.

I picked him up today from the church parking lot and he sleepily told me about camp. Halfway home I asked if he’d written me. I thought for SURE he would say yes. Or I thought he’d say yes, he mailed it but it hadn’t had time to arrive yet. Or that he just hadn’t mailed it (like last year) and he’d give it to me when he unpacked. Last year’s letter is so precious. It’s hanging on the laundry room wall, and I re-read it occasionally and smile because it’s just THAT cute. It consists of 3 sentences, 4 misspelled words, 1 sketch of his cabin, and the words ‘I miss you’ written in truly deplorable handwriting.

The answer was no. HE HAD NOT WRITTEN THE MOMMY. He changed the subject and started talking about his plans for next year when he’s at camp and i’m thinking, WHAT? OH, NO! Who says you’re going to camp next year, dude? YOU DO NOT GET TO GO TO CAMP. JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS THERE, AREN’T YA? YOU BROKE THE “I WILL WRITE MY MOMMY” AGREEMENT, BUSTER.

I did not say this. I couldn’t decide at the time if it was reasonable. I could practically hear the Internet saying, “eh. He’s a boy. What do you expect, Kels?” And then me saying, “I EXPECT THE CHILD TO HONOR THE AGREEMENT AND WRITE THE MOMMY A SHORT, PRECIOUS LETTER FOR MY LAUNDRY ROOM WALL BECAUSE I AM AN EMOTIONAL SAP, THANK YOU, BUT I REALLY AND TRULY AM.”

And? I DO expect that. That was not too much to ask. This child may not ever go to camp again if he does not grasp the seriousness of this issue with me. Non-negotiable, this one. Pick your battles, right? Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do as parents? I PICK THIS ONE.

He has the disadvantage I suppose, of having a mother who loves written words, and the sharing of them. If someone takes the time to send me a note, an email, a text, a letter… that’s everything. That’s the way to get to me, every time.  (The spoken word, not so much. Call me, but I won’t answer.) I’m fascinated by you creative types who go above and beyond and do funny, smart, artistic, musical, informative, poetic,  persuasive, things with written words. Puns were the preferred language of my word-loving, humor-loving, newspaper editor grandfather. It’s just part of who I am. The women in my family are all like this, to a degree, sharing a history of language-based family culture.

The absence of the expected, agreed upon written word from my baby way off in another state… it mattered, and it mattered A LOT. 

So. Camp was a huge success as far as Ethan-11yr is concerned. As far as I am concerned, that’s lovely, because he’s never leaving home again without a signed contract stating he fully understands the All-Consuming Importance of the Mommy Letter and further, that he is willing to forfeit all perks of normal carefree boy life if he fails to send me a minimum of 3 sentences via mail.

He just went out to the backyard, acting like a carefree boy who is glad to be home –  which is the only reason I am not standing in the laundry room with him right now pointing out Last Year’s Letter and going completely, well, postal, on him about all of this and making him wish he were still at camp.

But there’s always tomorrow for that. And the whole next year, actually…





6 Comments on “Battle Lines, DRAWN.”

Jennifer Sullivan
July 17th, 2011
2:31 am

Ummm, yeah. So. well. Maybe you should get those little camp postcards for next year that just require filling in the blanks and go something like Dear ____, Today at camp I ______________, it was _____________. I _____________________. I ate _________________. I want to ____________ at camp. Followed by a few blank lines for the truly writerly type to make their own sentences. Then it ends with Love, ____________. It may not be as good as last years letter but it will be an improvement over this year! I know you are probably thinking of a hundred ways that this is just not the same, but he IS a pre-teen boy, and he did TALK to you about his camp trip and that is really amazing because a lot of boys lose the ability to talk to their parents around 11 and yours still knows how to conversate and THAT is amazing!!!!

Mother T
July 17th, 2011
7:36 am

My grandson is 9 yrs. old. He loves to write and talk. He went to camp for the first time this year. No one received any written communication from him the whole week.

He was having too much fun doing EVERYTHING!!! to stop and write. When he stopped it was because he was falling into bed asleep.

Unfortunately, it truly is the nature of the male beast.

Get him to talk now that he’s home and draw pictures. Help him make a memory book.

July 17th, 2011
9:17 pm

Boys! I sent one son to my mom for a week and he wouldn’t even answer text messages! That’s why, when he sent me a Mother’s Day text that said “I love you,” (He was away for a required school trip!), I saved that text message. It will stay in my phone and get looked at often. ha ha ha :)

July 17th, 2011
9:23 pm

every mama goes POSTAL on something
but hang in there having 3 girls that are so different – I am so amazed that they came from the same womb sometimes!!

I have found I have to communicate with each one of them differently
and usually in the way that they choose.

I wonder why the heck cant we just say it? But I have found the boundary lines (most of them- they change them and feel no need to cunsult me) especially with my middle girl. She doesnt like sarcasm and that nearly kills me but I change my approach for her because keeping the relationship the best it can be is the goal.

I just screwed it up no more than 30 minutes ago but i am so glad it is almost a new day!!

July 18th, 2011
10:54 am

1 – LOVE the going postal pun. Ha!

2 – I don’t keep *everything* embarrassing. Just the adorable stuff.

3 – Yeah, I think this is a conversation you can definitely have with Ethan and that he will understand but maybe not in your current frame of mind. Maybe in a week or two when you’ve had a lot more oxygen in your system.

July 18th, 2011
2:41 pm

i like this idea. VERY creative.

Mother T,
i knew you were a far better woman than I when I read the words “help him make a memory book.” I SHOULD. And instead I’ve been all, “what? THAT happened when you were at camp?! THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN COOL TO WRITE HOME ABOUT!” (Charming, right?)

that’s so sweet. I’d save it too!

What?! The way that THEY choose? It’s not all about ME!? Cool concept. WIll have to strongly consider. : )

Too late. i have already gone nuts on the child. Repeatedly. We stood in the laundry room and held hands and I showed him where I had written “ethan, camp, july 2010″ on last year’s letter and I had him re-read it while it still hung in its place of honor. He seemed surprised it was there at all. Then I told him he was never leaving again if he didn’t convince me i’d get mail. He was shocked. I’m NOT going?! Uh? NO. No you are not. NOOOOO. I have made a HUGE crazycakes impression on him and really have no intention of stopping.

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