Last summer, the Camp staff knew me as, ‘The Dimple’s Wife’. I hated it. Call me The Kooky Dancer, The Girl That Likes Math, The Enthusiast Wine Drinker but not just The Wife. As proud as I may feel to be married to the fine specimen, being defined solely as an appendage to him stripped the paint off me. I hadn’t realized I needed a role here, to feel like I belonged.
This year, I am introduced as the Camp Blogger. There’s not a hint of fish wife in that title.
My whole attitude has changed. Summer Camp is no longer a place that takes the Dimple from us, but something we are all part of (although he jokes I got sick of him over winter so I’m secretly pleased to have him out of the house more).
Every morning, Bob, the ‘Dactyl and I, go down to Camp – half a mile away. They muck about in sand, on spongy grass, ride bikes and toss balls, while I talk to campers and take photos.
By getting amongst it, I’m seeing and hearing what this place does for children from other families.The first session – out of six – was for children with parents in the US Military. Initially, I didn’t understand why spoilt little brats were able to run around paradise, when they already had a privileged lifestyle.
My attitude towards the US Military has never been favorable – a beast that promotes peace, with war. However, I understand the world needs that beast to exist; it wouldn’t be as peaceful without it, and many men, including fathers, have to fuel it.
It’s just really stink if your Dad is one of them.
About a quarter of the children had fathers who served in Iraq or Afghanistan. One boy, 11 years old, lost his Dad two months ago. Another girl had not seen her Father for 14 months. An eight-year-old boy set up a small shrine amongst the trees, with a photo of his Father saying: ‘Stay strong, I will be home soon. I love you.’ He visited it every day. The tricky thing for Military children is that they are told their fathers are doing something far greater than being a present parent – protecting the country!
A twelve-year-old girl had written a message on a card: ‘I love him because even his job makes a difference in the world.’ A fed line if ever I’ve seen one. They’re not meant to moan about absent parents, but be grateful. Coming here provided the freedom to talk openly to others, and they all said the best thing about Camp was meeting other kids who got it.
I no longer think of them as spoilt brats, but children with holes in their families.
The children who visit over the remaining five sessions also have absent parents, for different reasons: Dad’s in a gang, Mom’s a prostitute, Dad’s on coke, Mom’s an alcoholic, Dad left, Mom died, Dad was shot, Mom was taken away.
At least we have the Dimple around us: we eat together in the big mess hall, he has a day off every week and comes home, eventually, every night. Bob and the ‘Dactyl can see him, hug him, jump on him and hear they are loved.
I’m not resentful this time around because I get it. And I’m part of it.
The ‘Dactyl is currently obsessed with Disney’s Cinderella and wants to read it every night. Aside from glossing over descriptions of the jealous Stepmother and ugly Stepsisters (it’s Cinderella’s fault blended families are so bitchy) I edit the end. Yes, she still gets saved by her prince, but I turn her into a Veterinarian – those mice would have needed treatment after turning into horses, but more importantly she’s no longer, forever after, just The Wife.
PS. It’s tricky to describe this place in full swing, if you want a peek, the Camp Blogger tells me there are some snaps here,.