Making Memories Goes Bad – An Early End to a Week at Space Camp

U.S. Rocket Center in Huntsville, ALLast Sunday, I dropped my son off at Space Camp.  THE Space Camp.  The one in Huntsville, AL that has NASA written all over it.

He had gone to a local day camp run by a space center last summer and loved it.  He’s also been going to overnight camps for five years so I had no concerns there, either.  Plus, he was so excited to go.  Unfortunately, it did not go as planned.

We  arrived early on Sunday so had time to explore the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.  If you’ve never been there, it’s a really neat place.  They, of course, have rockets and space memorabilia, but they also have a section on the Army including a couple of helicopters as well as some rides and other activities.  My son spent a long time on the rock climbing wall.

Anyway, it was soon time to leave him there.  With a hug and a kiss, he went off to his orientation and I stayed for the parent orientation.  They spoke about what to expect at Friday’s camp graduation and what to do if our child was homesick.  Then I went off to a conference I was attending in a nearby city.

The first night all seemed well, at least no news was good news.  My son didn’t even call.  The second night, he called very briefly.  He said he was homesick so wanted to call.  He then just said he loved and missed me and that he was going to bed now.  That was it so I figured all was going at least pretty well.

The third night was a completely different story.  He called his dad first.  I’m not sure how that conversation went since my husband was still at home while I was in a hotel at a conference near camp.  Then, my son called me very upset.  He was crying so hard I could barely understand what he was saying.  What I got out of the conversation was that he wanted to go home.  Something had happened during the day between him and another boy and that boy had now told him that he was going to “get him” while he was asleep so he was afraid to go to sleep.  I got him to calm down and explained to him that there were team leaders on duty all night and security patrolling the halls so he would be safe.  I told him that I would also call management to be sure they were aware of what was going on.

I got off the phone with him and immediately called management who told me they’d have to call me back.  I heard back from them after they had spoken to my son, his team leader, and the other boy.  Apparently, there had been an incident during the day between the boys and at this point, they were told to stay away from each other.  In addition, the team leader said my son was homesick adding to his distress.  They said they had calmed him down and expected all to be OK.

The next morning, however, things obviously were still not OK.  My son called me crying and begged me to come get him.  I told him there were only two more days left and couldn’t he stick it out; that they had already even completed his graduation packet.  No, he hated it there and could not stick it out.  Please come get him.  I told him that I would be there later in the day.  I then called management again to state that I would be coming to get him.

At the time, I was really second guessing my decision.  He has never asked me to come get him early from a camp before although he has been homesick so being a mom, I wanted to get him since he was so unhappy.  The other side of me kept thinking that I should make him “tough it out,” that there will be situations in life that he can’t leave so he needs to learn to deal with them.  The protective mom won out, however, and not only did I pick him up, I changed our flights and we came home.

On the flight home, I felt my decision was validated.  I asked him what had happened that made him so unhappy and he started to cry.  From what I got of the story, the other boy had never physically hurt him, but had constantly picked at him telling him that he was better at every activity and that my son was bad or couldn’t do something. The other boy also told the other kids, “Let’s get revenge on (my son’s name)” after something happened (I tried to find out since there must have been an initial act for there to be revenge) and as I had already been told on the phone, the other boy said he was going to get him when he went to sleep.  In addition, my son said he kept getting “in trouble” for being near the other boy (since they were told to stay away from each other), but that the other boy would come by him so he spent the day trying to stay away instead of having fun.

While I don’t regret decamping my son early, I do regret not saying more to management to try to get the situation resolved before making the decision to get him.  I also regret not getting more of the story from my son while on the phone.  Because of that, the “official” reason he left early was “homesick” and while that may have been a contributing factor, it doesn’t give the full story.  I, of course, only have my son’s side of the story and I am sure there is another side, but it seems to me that there were at least two campers involved here and it seems rather unfair that my son is home while the other one is still having fun at camp.

It’s just unfortunate that something that should have been a wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime experience was so disappointing.

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