My summer with Milo began again a few weeks ago with rock climbing camp. It was 1/2 day (in the morning) in an industrial nowhere between our little town and the big city near by. Milo’s BFF J was there, along with another friend of J’s.
The upside of this adventure: air conditioning, social but not competitive, physical but not a sensory disaster, free wifi and a comfortable place to sit for me. The downside: massive, overwhelming frustration.
J’s other friend had been rock climbing many times before, as had several of the other campers. J’s other friend was shy and since he and J were carpooling, J was clearly torn between his other friend and Milo. Milo didn’t make it easy for J. Milo’s nervousness increased his volume and his fidgety weirdness. (For Milo’s volume to increase it means he can be heard from the international space station because his everyday voice is just that LOUD.)
The first day started off well. The kids climbed the easy self belay walls. Then, because climbing is hard, brutal even, on your body, particularly your upper body (and Milo’s upper body is a doughy wonder) they take at least two breaks to play games. The first day’s game was . . .wait for it. . . dodgeball. Shit. Milo wanted to play so I let him. He was loving it, and winning, until J accidentally hit him hard in the face with a ball. First came the SCREAMING, then the thrashing, then me running across the padded floor in my nurses clogs to haul his dervish body over to the observation deck. He calmed enough to let loose a paranoid rant about how the world was against him, how bad things only happen to him, how he hates all camps and just wants to stay home with me. All day. Every day. Just the two of us. Forever.
I gave him a snack. I gave him my phone to play on. After 15 minutes of minecraft he went back to climbing and camp ended quietly.
On the second day the trouble came right away. They were moving on to more challenging walls. Milo could not easily find a foot hold or finger hold. He would let go and hang on the belay with his head down, his body limp. Other campers and counselors would shout encouraging words which would make him shout back obscenities. The kids would recoil. To the staff’s credit, they ignored him. Eventually, after innumerable fits of public frustration, he got to the top of one of the intermediate climbs. He was elated. I was a shaky mess. I had hoped to get some work done. I tried. But knowing that everything can go horribly wrong at any minute makes it hard to concentrate.
We went back for the third day. Milo set a goal of reaching a ledge which lay beyond a part of the wall that juts out, so maneuvering around it meant the counter-intuitive move of leaning away from the wall itself. Another rant in mid air, swaying on belay. Another successful ascent. And when 12:30 finally came, we left, with Milo cheering and me wiping the flop sweat from my brow.
The week ended with two flawless days of climbing, easy cooperative games, and Milo reaching the top of the hardest climbs his age was allowed to attempt. We both beamed with pride and stopped for cupcakes on the way home.
Climbing camp was a success. He battled his own doubts and his own expectations and he didn’t disappoint himself. The cost to me was time, and wrinkles, grey hair and sweat, like every other parent who accompanies their kid on a challenge. Plus this: the continued resignation my summer is Milo. All day. Every day. The two of us. Forever?