The back story is my daughter and son are used to doing most things together, excepting a a few special girlfriends that my daughter sees on her own, and one special house filled with three brothers that my son visits on his own. The house-of-boys also features many hot-ticket experiences that my son doesn’t get in our home, such as playing with every lego ever created, video games, unlimited movies and ice-cream for breakfast. Needless to say, this boy-house is the Mothership for my four-year-old boy. The other relevant information is neither of my children have ever attended summer camp.
My friend, the mother of the Mothership home, is hosting a one-week camp in her backyard. She invites my eldest daughter to participate in the camp because the she thinks my daughter will love the theme and it is age-appropriate for her. My son is too young for the camp. I want to give my daughter this experience but I am worried about breaking this news to my son: she gets camp and he doesn’t, AND, the camp is taking place at his sacred boy-house. I anticipate a huge fall out, so I know I need to Set the Stage, which is: explaining what is going to occur before it happens and allowing for all the feelings that might arise.
I start with my daughter. She awakes early on the first morning of camp and I take her aside and tell her that I have something special lined up for her. I explain how she is going to get this camp experience where she will meet new people and learn new things. She is thrilled as some of her friends have been attending camp and she is curious about all the rage. Next, I add that while she is at camp I will be doing some special things with her brother. (I don’t want a fall-out from her later, wanting everything he had while she was away.) She agrees that it makes sense that I would do some special things with her brother while she’s at camp. Her tooth-less smile is exuberant and she is bubbling over with excitement. So far, so good.
Her brother wakes and I take him aside. Like any good saleswoman, I start with what he has to gain. I tell him I have some special things planned for him this week. We’ll go to the Pier, perhaps I’ll buy him a new puzzle and maybe we’ll even watch a movie mid-week. He is very excited. Then I explain that while we’re doing these things, his sister is going to be having her own unique experience, which is one week at camp, and that it is a camp for six-year-olds. He pauses at this new information. I am ready for any feelings of “it’s not fair,” but he seems okay with it. He is excited for our special time together.
Now for the location. I am truly concerned about my son’s reaction to this aspect of the camp-situation. My son is passionate and expressive and when he’s dissatisfied or if something is unjust in his mind (like having to wait three seconds for juice) you will HEAR about it!
I begin my soliloquy en-route to the boy-house by talking about camps in general and how they are historically held at various locations; you have your horseback riding camp held at a ranch, your surf camp held at the water, and so forth. Then I explain how some camps borrow someone’s backyard, and when you have camp in someone’s back yard, it isn’t a play date at that person’s house; the camp is just using that person’s yard. I don’t mention my daughter’s camp location yet; I want them to get this notion conceptually first.
I continue, “If camp was at our neighbor’s house, would your sister get to play with their guinea pigs during camp?” They both answer, “No, because it’s not a play date.” Batting 1000. I ask, “If camp was held at your Auntie’s, would you be able to watch a movie while they you were there?” “No,” they answer, “It would be camp in the backyard.” Great! It’s time to face the inevitable, “So,” I say to my son, “The camp your sister is going to attend is at Susan’s house.” “Oh,” he says. “Why do you think they chose Susan’s house?” I ask. “Because she has a big backyard, and a trampoline and it’s nice there.”
“Will your sister get to play video games while she’s there?” “No.” “Will she get to eat ice cream?” “No.” “Just camp, right?” “Yeah, just camp.”
When it came time to drop off my daughter at my son’s favorite home, there was no fuss on either end. The stage had been set away from the “hot moment” of the drop-off, the feelings had been processed and it was smooth sailing.
The ironic post-script to this story, is that my daughter attended the camp for two days and then decided she would really rather be with her family in our regular life. She didn’t need the bells and whistles. How nice for us! L.O.V.E. Parenting
About Jessica Williams
Jessica Williams created L.O.V.E. Parenting with a series of techniques for effective communication, deepened connection and more joy in parenting and life. Jessica is also the creator of www.UltimateParentingCourse.com with the best of today's progressive parenting experts together in one program. Jessica is a featured expert internationally on both Mothering.com’s Ask An Expert and the upcoming www.KidsInTheHouse.com. Jessica is a regular contributor to Mothering Magazine’s All Things Mothering, LA Parent Magazine, LA Mom Magazine & DailyBuzzMoms. She has been interviewed on television and radio and taught workshops at family wellness centers, schools and doctor’s offices. Her BirthKit has helped women have a transformational & empowering birth. Jessica maintains a private coaching practice in her native Los Angeles where she lives with her husband and their three children. “Truly amazing woman. I love her advice.”—Carrie-Anne Moss. “All you have shared has helped tremendously.”—Lisa Bonet. “I am experiencing nothing short of a miracle thanks to your laser beam approach.” –Andrea Bendewald.