Yesterday was the first day of summer camp for DC and Salli. DC has talked about nothing else since I told him he would be going on Thursdays and Fridays for the summer. I did not tell him too early because…….
He was excited, to say the least.
Not only would he be going to camp but his his favorite ex-group leader, “Giselle” (everyone is named for a Disney character or Princess) would be taking the head position in the after camp program this year!
What you need to know about DC is that no matter how much he wants to go somewhere or how much he is looking forward to going, there is always an element of anxiety that hits him when he arrives…. I like to call it “Arrival Anxiety”.
This anxiety is not anything new with DC, it just seems to be a little more intense, and dare I say, loud since he has been on his seizure medication. It is as if someone flips a switch and there it is. It can be brought on by anything or nothing at all. It just “is”. It also takes him a little bit longer to shake it off now-a-days. For camp drop off, this means a big production until the switch gets flipped back and I am able to leave.
My other concern was that DC, as soon as he heard he’d be going back to camp, began asking for his friend Ron (see story below). Ron had moved out of state a few years ago but still came up to visit his aunt (who was the camp director) and volunteer at camp each summer. With his aunt stepping down as director I was not sure that Ron would be volunteering any longer.
I tried to prep DC ahead of time, just in case Ron was not there this year. He seemed to understand, but with DC one never knows if he is “getting it” until he’s faced with whatever I was hoping he was understanding.
I saw that flip switch before we even left the house.
“Please DC, don’t do this today. Try to calm down and breathe before we get there”. Yes, I know that I can’t just talk someone out of anxiety, but still one can hope.
By the time we picked up Salli, he was “roaring and growling”. It wasn’t looking good.
Somewhere between Salli’s house and camp, he turned a corner and he was just the happy, goofy guy he had been before he went ’round the bend earlier at home. It stops and starts just that quickly, with no warning and often no explanation.
I did not know what snapped him out of it in the car but I was relieved for the moment. I knew that this did not necessarily mean it was over as we hadn’t actually “arrived” yet, but I was hopeful.
Still holding my breath, we pulled into the driveway and got out of the car….. and there was Ron!
ALL HAIL the the Spirit of Chief Gotchabagollie (it’s a camp thing, don’t try to figure it out)!!!!
They hugged each other and DC announced something like “It’s a beautiful day” – that was not exactly what he said, but I knew what he meant and his day was now made.
As DC would say; Phew!
More about Ron and DC (from 2015)
Yesterday was DC’s last day of camp. The last day is also always “Awards Day”. When DC came home I asked him if he got an award. He said he did. He didn’t have anything with him so I asked him where it was – “At the camp”. (I don’t know if he actually won an award). I asked him what award he won…..
“Best Camp Ever!”
I am sure he did not win an award for “the best camp ever” although he reported it that way to more than one person. I do know that he was really excited about camp that day.
Feeling bad that he had to miss so much of the little bit of time he was scheduled to go to camp this year, I arranged for him to attend on the last two days instead of just his scheduled Friday. It did not make up for the rest of the summer but at least he would be there two days in a row during the last week.
When I called to ask if he could attend the extra day the director let me know that her nephew *Ron would be there volunteering that week. Ron is one of DC’s favorite people at the camp. Ron has been around and volunteering for quite a few years. Like most of the volunteers, he spent a good part of his summers at camp.
DC really, really likes Ron and when DC likes someone – he really LIKES them, to a point that he really needs to be reeled in so as not to frighten the subjects of his admiration. DC really does not understand that not everyone wants to be hugged, not everyone wants him right in their face all of the time. He gets so excited over these chosen few that I really worry that he will end up pushing them away. You have not experienced fear until you see this guy come barreling at you at full speed. Even though at this point I know he is running to give me a hug and even though I know he will be able to stop before mowing right over me, as he is coming at me and in the moment, I am still convinced that he is going to knock me into the next town.
The friends that he sees often are used to this and because he sees them often do not always get the in-your-face DC…… not continuously, anyway. There are a chosen few that he does not get to see all that often, that really get the full DC-experience. If I know we may be coming in contact with any of these people ahead of time, I do try to have a conversation with him before we arrive.
He is supposed to ask permission of the person before hugging, unless of course it is someone we have already established does not mind being on the receiving end of that back crushing hug. Normally when I have to make a rule, DC is good about adhering it. This particular rule seems to give him a bit of trouble. He just gets too excited to think about the rules.
He has had a few experiences where someone was absolutely NOT happy with DC’s attention. In one instance it caused a schoolmate to have meltdown. This upset DC for days. He doesn’t understand. It is not clear to him why he can hug some friends and not others. Some just try to avoid him, a few put up with it because they understand and others do not mind at all and actually are happy to see him. Ron is in the “happy to see him” group.
A few years ago, Ron moved down south with his family. DC continued to look for him at camp and every camp event throughout the year. As soon as he was aware that a winter camp activity was coming the very first question would be about Ron. It took a good long while for him to understand that he had moved far away. I am still not sure that he quite understands ‘moved away’ but he does finally understand that Ron will not be there all the time as he once was.
Ron does come back on vacation to visit his aunt during the summer and comes to volunteer while he is here. In case you missed that…… He spends his vacation volunteering at the camp. Impressed? I certainly am.
DC was so happy to hear that Ron would be there and I am so glad I opted for that extra day. Ron doesn’t seem to mind having DC all over him all day. He is very good with him and I don’t feel as if I have to give DC too many instructions beforehand because I know Ron can handle it.
Halfway through the last day of camp I received a text from the assistant director with this photo.
I know that DC did not win “The Best Camp Ever” award. I am sure he was telling me that he had the best day at camp ever – and a good part of that due to his friend Ron.