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On Trusting our Parental Instincts: Stomach Bug vs. Homesickness

Tues. at 9 a.m. the phone rings, and it’s my son’s teacher, Mr. S. Always a lump in the throat when your kid’s teacher calls, right? Well, in this case, my son is away at overnight camp all week, so my heart leaped into my throat big time.

Turns out that my son had thrown up twice, once the night before and once in the morning during breakfast. Mr. S suspected that it was probably homesickness. Huh?

Everything in me said no way, not my kid. My son LOVES going on overnights wherever and whenever he can. He has never been homesick while on one of these excursions, as far as I know, (and he’s been away to overnight camp twice, albeit those were shorter jaunts). It just didn’t ring true to me. Then again, I wasn’t there. I asked to speak to my child, and he called me a few minutes later.

“I want to go home!” he wailed. Why?

“I threw up…TWICE…and I want to go home.” How would going home help, honey?

“I’d be more comfortable. I only ate a cracker for breakfast and now I’m supposed to go on a hike all morning,” he began crying again. Well, I’m sure you don’t have to go on the hike if you’re not up to it. Do you want me to come and see if I can help you get more comfortable there? Do you want me to bring you a stuffed animal — Fuzzy or Hobbes?

“I want to go home.” I understand that you don’t feel well, but if you really were still terribly sick, then I think the teachers and everybody would see that. I can help you today, but I’m also telling you right now that you are not going home for the whole rest of the week. You’d be missing out on a lot, and I’m sure you’re going to be fine.

“It would help if you came. Can you bring Hobbes? … It would be even better if you came every day.” I’m NOT going to come every day, but I will come today, honey, and help you get more comfortable and assess the situation. Can you give the phone back to Mr. O?

So I hopped in the car, stuffed animal in tow, and drove off towards the camp. En route I got a phone call from the camp counselor, who informed me that my son was homesick and would benefit greatly from going on the hike (“It’s not strenuous, not like real hiking!”) Oh, there’d be all manner of team-building and stuff going on that my son would miss out on if he didn’t participate. Clearly, she thought that I was somehow encouraging my son to turn coward. I countered that I didn’t think he was homesick but merely exhausted because he came into the week already depleted from our weekend at camp in Maine. She was not convinced. Finally, she agreed to ask him herself and see what he wanted to do and call me back.

I continued driving. Then, less that five minutes later I got another call from the counselor, and she informed me that my son’s other teacher, Mrs. O. (who is out on maternity leave but is coming to the camp here and there this week) had spoken with him while we were on the phone earlier and convinced him to give the hike a try. Hmm.

Camp counselor assured me that she would call when he got back and let me know how he was doing. So I detoured to the grocery store to get some shopping done (might as well make use of the gas burned to drive that far in the car). When she called later around 11:45, she said that he had participated well in the hike, etc., etc. Clearly, she felt vindicated, thinking that it was clear now that he only needed to get involved in a fun activity to stop feeling homesick. I remarked that he always has a good attitude and enjoys activities, and that is why I did not think he was homesick but actually sick. His participation, though, seemed to indicate that perhaps he was on the mend. She said she’d call me after lunch and let me know how he did with the meal. Then she never called.

No news is good news, right?

At 6:30 p.m. I finally broke down and called Mr. S.’s cell phone but had to leave a message. I was pretty sure at that point that he must be okay or I would have heard. But the last I spoke with my child he was crying and sick and I told him I was on my way. I know it’s best for him to be able to handle things himself when possible, so I tried to “suck it up” myself all day and talk myself out of worrying.

Then around 9:50 p.m. I checked email and saw a slew of messages on our church listserv with families saying they had come down with a bad stomach bug on Mon. night! The very kids with whom he had spent the weekend were some of those listed as sick. Luckily, most seemed to be recovering after 24 hrs. Yikes!

I called the camp counselor directly and informed her about the stomach bug in our church and asked how my son was doing. “Well, if that’s what it was, he’s doing fine now.” IF!! IF???


Apparently, he had been doing great all day. He and his beloved Mrs. O. had spoken several times and my son kept saying that he wanted to stay. This teacher is such a doll, and my son has really been missing her in class since she had her baby. I’m sure it was a terrific comfort for her to be around when he wasn’t feeling well. And I’m equally sure that she would see that he was actually sick and not merely MAKING himself sick from missing home. As if!

The counselor apologized, twice, for not calling earlier. We ended the conversation with my warning her to be on the lookout for other kids getting sick later in the week now that they have been exposed. The church emails indicated that this was a quick onslaught, extremely violent, but short-lived bug. She didn’t seem convinced that any such thing was possible, but we ended the call politely.

What! Does she think I’m lying about dozens of my fellow parishioners getting sick?? Or was she so stuck in her mindset after years of dealing with homesick kids that she just could not hear what I was saying in order to shift her reality? Did she actually believe me but was merely distracted and thus didn’t respond in such a way as to show me she understood?

Ah, well, let’s face it — the only important thing here is that my son is fine and having a good time at camp. He really has something to be proud of. What a great kid! I’m glad that he found a way to get through it and stick it out — such things are great character building events in a child’s life. Wed. I did hear back from his other teacher, Mr. S. (the one with whom I left the phone message Tues.) and when I told him the news, he immediately accepted it: “Well, that explains that!” I asked him to tell my son that he caught the bug from his church friends. After all, who wants to be known as the kid who missed him mommy so much that he threw up?! As if vomiting isn’t bad enough! And then to get that reputation.

The truth does matter, especially to a ten-year-old boy who is trying desperately to spread his wings. Hobbes never made it to camp, by the way. My son remains stuffed-animal-less this week. Apparently, he’s just fine on his own.

6 Responses

  1. You handled things well, which I’m sure you know. I’m glad he’s feeling better.

    We need to see pics of Hobbes! 🙂

  2. Oh, I can do that! I’ll post about Hobbes next. 🙂

  3. Excellent! Looking forward to that.

  4. […] when I was rushing to go see vomit-boy at overnight camp. Since I never actually made it to camp (see yesterday’s post), Hobbes is still in the back seat, awaiting his boy’s return this […]

  5. It never ceases to amaze me when it comes to teachers how little they think we know our own children. While I’m sure there are the overprotective parents that give the rest of us a bad name, they should judge on a case per case basis. I went thru this with three, and the teachers just never thought I knew what I was talking about. (No offense to teachers. God Bless all those that had my children and finally helped pull the last two to high school graduation. After the first one made it so easily, the last two were a little tuff).LOL.

    It’s good for your son that it worked out the way it did though. He would have missed so much if he would have come home.

  6. Yeh, turned out that he had a great time. I didn’t know that half his classmates were sleeping at home! My son turned out to be a brave guy. 🙂

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