Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

Seasoned campers? September 21, 2012

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toilet paperIt’s that time of year again – when schools arrange for the kids to head off on various camps, just ahead of the school holidays.  As so little academic work really gets done in the last week of every term (let’s be honest), it makes a lot of sense to me.

So it is that the men-children have headed off on yet another camp.  We have had outdoor education camps, cadet camps, rowing camps, well-being camps and summer camps amongst others.  Each camp challenging, enjoyable, and contributing to the boys’ sense of independence, sense of self and maturity.

This camp is for their selected outdoor activity.  With so many activities on offer, there are a large number of camps throughout the year with small groups of boys.  So out of all the activities and all the camps, my two somehow end up on the same camp of just 12 boys kayaking.  Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s fantastic they are kayaking – it’s a challenging sport, and as rowers they seem to be very well suited to it.  They love the physical challenge of the rapids and of course the camping in the bush.  But how is it that out of 250 boys, the men-children again find themselves thrown together.  When I discovered they were both on the camp together, I did have a chuckle, and asked if they were planning on sharing a tent?  (Trust me, they would rather each endure frostbite than share a tent together).

So apart from establishing that they had organised very quickly their respective tent buddies, they were then left to sort all the gear out themselves.  Being teenage boys, it took several nights of nagging to finally get them to THINK about what they needed and do some advance planning/organising.  Along with several threats of “I won’t be driving around the night before you go, picking up camping gear or shopping for you” (mmm, hold that thought)!

True to form, one was pretty organised, prompting me to go shopping, equipped with his list, booking camping stoves, borrowing gear, etc.  His brother was the exact opposite, having lost his list the day he was given it, and forever after blaming everyone else for “throwing it out”.   My guess is he finally found it buried under the pile of shit that’s been living on his bedroom floor for the last few weeks, and which I insisted he clean up before heading away for four days (under threat that I would otherwise throw every last bit of it out) but he’s not going to admit that is he?

When it was suggested he who lets everyone else worry for him, and organise him, actually pick up the camp stoves after school the day before camp, he made a million excuses.  Suddenly he was very busy with a haircut and even a detention!  Simple answer to that – either you pick up the stoves or don’t bother going on the camp!  Guess what – he managed to leave school early (not happy), suddenly having no detentions, and picked up the stoves.  A minor victory!  Short-lived, as we then endured the morning of departure with him still running around packing last minute items including cutlery and plates (generally useful when camping) and a double bed sheet.  Most people would take a sleeping bag and camp mattress.  No, this man-child convinced the camp leader that he could bring the double mattress from the fold-up couch to place inside the tent for him and his camping buddy – with every intention of living in relative luxury for four days.  Amazing!

As for the food supplies it was the usual boy camp food.  Tinned tuna, tinned chicken, bread, dehydrated pasta and rice meals, cereal and milk powder, along with snacks and a slab of Sunkist.   One was literally happy to live on 2 minute noodles with virtually no protein at all, but I convinced him that wasn’t going to sustain him for long with the physical exercise he was planning during the camp.

So camping they are.  Enjoying the great outdoors, doing without the luxuries of home, no shower for four days, a basic drop toilet, no electricity, no TV, internet, Facebook or mobile phones.  Back to nature, bonding with mates (even one’s twin brother?), learning to kayak the wildest rapids, and having an absolute ball.

Having seen my men-children enjoy their camps so much every year, I wish they had actually attended a school that included at least a term or a year off-campus at a separate rural facility.  I really believe it is good for adolescents to have some time away from home, and to learn basic life skills and self-sufficiency.  Somewhere their mother can’t do everything for them, and molly-coddle them (okay, I admit it).  Speaking of which, I just remembered that I didn’t remind either of them to take loo paper for the drop toilet.  Oh well, they will just have to borrow some or go without!  A good lesson for all of us. 🙂

I have written about the joys of the men-children camping before: A bit on the nose after camp & Freezing on cadet camp.


A bit on the nose after camp! September 23, 2011

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socksThe men-children returned from camp on Tuesday after five blissfully quiet days without them.  We almost didn’t know what to do at night while they were gone – there were no arguments over the dinner table, no demands about homework, no screaming to pick up stuff or begging for help at home.   Father of a Man-Child and I even enjoyed several long, uninterrupted conversations (it’s been a while), and Sister of a Man-Child was simply in heaven (as you would be being an only child for a few days with the undivided attention of your parents).

If you didn’t hear the men-children soon after they arrived home, you could definitely SMELL them!!!  Pity Father of a Man-Child who had to collect both boys (of course they didn’t arrive home together or leave together – the joys of twins) and endure them in close proximity for the short trip home.  Trust me they absolutely stank; I imagine his car will carry the odour for weeks.

By the time I saw them both at home they had showered thankfully, probably for a good 30 mins each, and fair enough too.  My only sample of the smell of boys after five days of camping was the clothing that came down for a wash, the sleeping bags that needed airing and/or washing, and the socks and boots that were so vile they had to spend the night outside because they could stink out an entire room in seconds.  It really was a very rude shock to the olfactory senses.

Man-Child I did change his jocks on occasion although he didn’t shower at all on camp.  And Man-Child II (and all other cadets apparently) simply wore their cadet uniforms for the whole five days.  So naturally, since they didn’t shower, they didn’t bother changing their jocks or socks either……..gross!!!  Perhaps I should just throw those ones out?

Both of the boys came home thoroughly exhausted, but having really enjoyed the challenges of their respective camps.  That would be with the exception of the last night, during which they both endured gale force winds and driving rain.  It was actually so bad on Cadet Camp they had to abandon the camping ground at 10pm at night and all hike back to the barracks, where they got to sleep in dorms (relative luxury), without bedding though, as that had all been left at the site.  Thankfully the school put the boys’ safety first – strong winds in a camping ground full of large trees being a recipe for disaster.   Man-Child I also endured a close encounter with a leech one night in his sleeping bag – ewww.  Nasty little suckers!

Whilst they both survived on the food (army rations and dehydrated noodle meals for the most part), they were certainly thankful for the large steak we served up to them upon their arrival home.  Nothing like a few days camping to appreciate a home cooked meal, a nice warm bed, a hot shower and a toilet that’s not a long drop. J

As for the parents who chose to let their boys stay home and not attend camp – far too soft!!!  This is the stuff that turns boys into men – the adventures that shape them and make them realise they can survive, and that they are stronger and more resilient than they might otherwise believe.  Good old-fashioned male bonding – bring it on.

PS.  Off on holidays next week – so forgive me if I don’t post a regular update.  Am seriously considering going away without a laptop and am too busy to have prepared anything in advance.  Sorry folks.

Read about pre-camp preparations here: Man-Child Free For Five Days – Woohoo!  


Mother of a Man-Child: Camping Man-Child Style! July 1, 2011

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hutchieOne of my men-children is off to school Cadet camp this week for two nights roughing it in the cold winter of Melbourne.  If he comes home with frostbite it’s not my fault!  All my best nagging and attempts to organize him failed dismally – clearly he doesn’t take after me – the most organized person my friends know!

The camp is a Bivouac – so called because it refers to a military encampment made with tents or improvised shelters.  That means Man-Child II is sleeping in a Hutchie (see pic) – which is very, very basic accommodation and clearly doesn’t lend itself to warmth, and also cooking his own meals from specially prepared cadet ration packs (yum?).

Naturally the Cadets (who are officially a part of the Australian Army) are a well oiled machine – we’ve had instructions sitting at home for at least a month outlining all the details of the camp and what was required of the attending boys.  Naturally Man-Child II, aka Mr Last Minute, did absolutely nothing about the camp until the day before.  I must admit I didn’t come across the notes until the end of the weekend, and then went into a state of mild panic since he only had three days to get organized.

And so Mr Last Minute went to the “cadet store” at school the day before camp to pick up what he needed (apparently).  That of course was exactly one week after the deadline for them to pick up their equipment – he assures me the place was full of boys on the day he went – I shouldn’t be surprised.

That night, after much hyperventilation by Mother of a Man-Child, we finally went through the list and the questions started……”What’s a C-H-U-X, I need one of them” (yep, a dish-cloth, clearly far too foreign to Man-Child).  “And what about a S-C-O-U-R-E-R?”  See first point!   I felt panic coming on when he asked me if we had a Hexamine Stove!  What??!!  Oh yes, of course, let me just pull that out of the cupboard that contains all the camping equipment this non-camping family have!  He was supposed to get it from the cadet store – whoops.  Guess he’ll be enjoying uncooked two-minute noodles for lunch and cold beef & vegie stew for dinner.  Unless he can borrow someone else’s stove.  Really I could have clocked him one.

They sleep in a Hutchie on the Bivouac – yep, under a canvas tent sheet basically.  At camp they are given the hutchie, sleeping mat and cords.  It was only through us cross-checking the list we discovered he hadn’t collected the tent pegs – a vital component if the picture is accurate.   Luckily I found some tent pegs in the kids play tents that will probably do the trick.  Either that or he’ll be sleeping cloaked in a canvas sheet.

And then we came to the clothing to pack.  For good reason they don’t take much as they have to carry everything in their pack.  But they were given a list of essential clothing to take with them, including beanies and gloves because it’s going to be sub four degrees overnight – especially with these beautiful blue-sky days.  So we tried to explain the need for a beanied head to retain heat, a track suit to provide extra layers, and thick Explorer socks for your feet, even in the worlds warmest sleeping bag, because it will be DAMN cold.  But no, our very own Solo man wouldn’t take a jumper to sleep in – a t-shirt will be fine.  I guess if he’s desperate he’ll just have to sleep in his army uniform!!

I am sure Man-Child II will thoroughly enjoy the camp.  Who wouldn’t relish some time in the great outdoors, hiking, training, bonding, whilst soaking up the cool, crisp, warmish winter days.  If per chance he does freeze his arse off, I’m sure he’ll never admit it to me.  Maybe Father of a Man-Child will have to do the scouting on this one.  And let’s just hope it doesn’t end the same way as the last school camp he attended (see the post below for more about that).