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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Tourette's Camp

Last week Aidan, Jonah and Ben went to camp. Tourette's camp. It was a week where you could stay overnight if you wanted to, or if you lived close enough, your crazy Mama could volunteer to transport you to camp each day at the crack of dawn and pick you up each night at Mama's bedtime. 
My boys, of course, chose the latter. Although Jonah stayed two nights and Aidan stayed one!!

Which was fine. My intent was that they be successful at staying at camp each day, try new things, make new friends, and see that there are kids in the world who are a lot like them. They are not alone in their tic-y-ness. 

And I would have to say, Mission Accomplished. The boys had a fabulous week. They made new friends. They swam and went out on boats and did tie dye and played a million games. They got all the blood sucked out of their bodies from mosquitos and they got a lot of sun. They had a true, beautiful, wonderful camp experience. With the safety of Mama picking them up every night. (To give credit where credit is due, Daddy did pick them up one or two nights. I can't remember how many. It's all a blur because I was sleep-deprived.)

The first night when I came to pick the boys up, I was met with a roomful of sweaty, happy, painted kids, all lined up to get their nightly meds from the nurse who was on staff all week. I sat and waited for my boys to arrive, and watched the beautiful, chaotic cacophony of so many ticcing, boisterous, joyous kids. And when my boys did arrive and lined up for their meds, they were just part of the youthful chaos. Almost everyone got meds. It was normal to line up to see the nurse and get your pills dumped into your hand and a tiny cup of water. No one hesitated or felt weird because they took medication. It was normal. My boys were normal. In that group, my boys were just normal. It was a wonderful feeling to watch that. I know my boys probably didn't soak that in and understand the magnitude of that moment, but I know they felt like part of a group, part of a whole, and they saw they were normal in that group.

The boys came home each night with stories of adventures, new friends, people from far-away places, and who has which tic. Since camp, any time Ben does anything that annoys someone, he says "Sorry. It's my tic." Even when it's clearly not. He also has been experimenting with tics, trying to see what it feels like to stutter, or blink a lot more than he already does, things like that. At camp, there were kids with obvious tics and other things associated with Tourette's, and kids who you would never know had Tourette's. Sort of like our boys- sometimes their tics are very apparent, other times not so much. And every single child that I came into contact with (I ended up being at camp a lot) was so polite, and kind, and respectful, and just downright cute.

The first morning when I dropped off the boys, there was a small boy who was Aidan's age waiting for his meds. This boy was in Aidan's cabin and they became great friends. He was the sweetest, kindest, most polite, adorable little guy. He reminded me exactly of a dark-haired Aidan. The night the boys left camp, Aidan and his dear friend came in the door of the cabin, both teary-eyed and the friend was actually sobbing. The adults rushed over to see what was the matter, but the counselors assured us that Aidan and his friend were just heartbroken to be leaving each other. It was the sweetest thing I've ever seen. I told the boys we'd get each other's info and they can stay in touch over email or phone. That made them feel better. So they went to get their meds together. It was just such a typical Aidan Moment, and I was so happy that he met a kindred spirit at camp- someone who feels as deeply as he does about friendship.

My children only lost approximately 37 items while at camp. Pretty good, for them. We went over to camp today to dig through their mountain of Lost and Found treasures. We were able to find a lost sweatshirt, a flashlight, and a pair of sneakers! It was a very successful hunt. The stuffed raccoon that Aidan bought at the camp store has been located at home with a friend, so that was a relief. 

Aside from mosquito bites, the boys had a perfect week. They came home happily exhausted every night. The camp staff were so incredible in how they closely supervised the campers, how they were compassionate and kind, how they were fun and energetic and put up with a lot. The week was well-organized and I actually felt safe leaving all the boys' meds for someone else to deliver to them--that's saying a lot. I could tell that nurse had the med thing totally under control.  As she and I organized the boys' meds, I said "Wow, I'm in awe of you." She gave me a high five and said "No. I'm in awe of YOU! You do this every day!!" She was awesome. I told her she had it easy- I took the boys off two of their meds just weeks before, so it was a whole lot less complicated than it used to be! It was so strange not giving meds for a week! 

I'm grateful that our boys got to experience something so unique and inspiring as this week of Tourette's camp. It was great for them on so many levels. They can't wait to go back next summer!

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