Learning to disconnect — an exercise in parenting

By Melanie Yingst

This afternoon I picked up my 12-year-old son from school following a two-night, three-day excursion in the rolling hills of picturesque Bellefontaine.

It was the annual sixth grade trip to Camp Willson. Can a camp have a more “campy” name than Camp Willson?

Earlier this week, I was talking to my childhood friend Kevin whom I was in school with from kindergarten all the way through high school. We were reminiscing about “the old days” back when we were the “kings” of intermediate school, which was housed in one building. We didn’t have this trip when we were in sixth grade. We now realize why our class rarely was the group to be taken out in public. We were a pretty rowdy crew.

We laughed about how these poor children were going to make it 72 hours without iPods, video games and phones. Kids would actually have to talk to each other instead of screens. We also wondered if kids even knew how to fold notes into footballs, which is how we “texted” each other from across the room — or passed them to each other on the bus.

Yet, it’s amazing how much the disconnect was felt here on the parental side.

A few days ago, my mom and I helped my son pack for this overnight trip. It was then that we realized it would be the first time Evan would be staying overnight in a place other than my parent’s farm, his dad’s family and his best friend Mason’s house (on the rare occasion they weren’t grounded).

But it was also the first time we didn’t have instant access to his health and well-being. Even though Evan splits his time between myself and his dad’s place, we always text each other on how he is doing, how school went and share pictures of what he is doing throughout the day. And, for 72 hours, we couldn’t do that.

So for 72 hours, I just sat around and wondered: did he like the cabin, would he starve, who were the chaperones, did I pack enough warm clothes, etc?

It was a step outside of the parenting comfort zone just as much as it was for him for his first camp experience.

And, for 72 hours, I wouldn’t know how his day went or if he liked something or not. And I’ll be honest — it was rough.

It was weird, but in a way, I kept telling myself Evan was OK. As long as the phone didn’t ring, I could just sit back and relax. And when I say relax, I mean I silently prayed I wouldn’t get a phone call from the nurse or even worse, the principal.

So how did I cope? I trolled social media of course.

To somewhat ease my anxiety, I stooped to a new low. I couldn’t help but sneak peeks and creep on his teacher’s and the school’s Twitter and Facebook accounts for any inkling of how things were going.

In the end, it was a delight to see him step off the bus and drag his muddy, smelly belongings back to the car. He loved horseback riding, which was surprising to me. He didn’t like rock-climbing, which didn’t surprise me. He liked roasting hot dogs in a fire and he really liked a game called “Gah-Gah.” He tried to explain it to me, but I just liked hearing him talk about his new experiences with a few new names sprinkled into the mix for a change.

The boy did share his disdain for the mattress quality at camp. When you have a full-size bed to yourself, a twin-size plastic mat would be a shock to his pampered senses. It was nice to know the kid has it pretty good at home. Other than that quality of life comparison, he genuinely enjoyed his time at camp.

He liked it so much that I asked if he would want to go to a week-long camp this summer. I just got a glare. OK, so maybe I’ll wait a few more weeks to ask him that question.

If 72 hours was a long time, I’m not sure if I can handle a week. Camping is stressful.


By Melanie Yingst

“Twin” Melanie Yingst appears weekly in the Troy Daily News. Camping for her is a 27-foot RV with air conditioning with a flat screen TV outside.

“Twin” Melanie Yingst appears weekly in the Troy Daily News. Camping for her is a 27-foot RV with air conditioning with a flat screen TV outside.