Every summer, Mazzy has attended a day camp close to our summer house. It’s a sports camp with an emphasis on tennis and swimming. While Harlow gave me some issues with going last summer, Mazzy has always loved camp and looks forward to it every year. It’s also an easy option for me because it is 9am-4pm, only five minutes away, and during the summer, I work from home.

There are other specialized camps in the area and although they are less convenient, this summer, I wanted to give Mazzy the opportunity to attend something that might match her interests. Mazzy said she wasn’t interested in doing anything other than regular camp, but I was insistent. We haven’t really nailed Mazzy’s “thing” yet so I was hopeful a specialized camp might get her to feel more motivated. (As a sidenote, I always wonder with kids who are super involved in a particular hobby/sport/activity, how much of it was the kid or the parents’ doing?)

A few months before summer started, I found a stop motion animation class at a local museum about a half hour away, available to kids 8 and up, and signed Mazzy up for a week in August. Her favorite things are drawing and tech, so I thought the class would be perfect for her. After a little convincing, Mazzy was on board with the stop motion camp, but then got upset when she realized nobody else she knew would be in the class. A friend had signed up too but didn’t get a spot. I told her that she was lucky to have this opportunity and tried to convince her that it would be okay. At that point, it was far enough off that she stopped stressing about it.

Right before the season starts, their regular day camp publishes a calendar before listing the theme for each day— Halloween Day, Pirate and Princess Day, Crazy Hat Day, Scavenger Hunt Day, Ice Cream Truck Day, etc. When I signed Mazzy up for the stop motion camp, I checked the calendar to make sure it didn’t fall on any of Mazzy’s favorite camp days. It seemed all was clear.

Then summer arrived and I posted the calendar on the fridge, as always. Last year, Harlow was in the toddler camp so they had different calendars. This summer was Harlow’s first year in the big kid camp, so when I posted the calendar, Mazzy was excited to go over it with her little sister. She studied it, explained the themes to Harlow and told her which ones were most fun and what she should be most excited about.

That’s when Mazzy realized that the stop motion class would be the same week as “team building” week, which is apparently her favorite week of camp. From what I gather, “team building” week is similar to what I remember as Color War. They spend a week separating into teams, competing against each other and creating Team Banners. Once she explained it to me, I remembered her talking about it in previous years and how much she loved it, but when I originally saw “team building” on the calendar, I did not connect it to the week that was such a big deal to her.

Every night for weeks, Mazzy would beg me to cancel the stop motion class. I told her that we couldn’t because we had already paid for it. She was so mad at me and would not let it go. I felt terrible.

After many tearful pleas, often at night when I was lying with her in bed while she tried to fall asleep, I promised Mazzy I would email the museum to see if it was possible to get a refund. They said I could get a partial refund but only if they filled the spot, which was unlikely with such late notice.

But then, the next week, I noticed that Mazzy’s interest in her regular day camp started to wane. It seemed like a lot of the kids she had become friends with in previous years were no longer attending or not attending as often. One of her best friends at camp started talking about how much she hated it and started staying home. Then Mazzy began complaining that she had no friends there and hated it too. On one day, I dropped her off and she was the only girl in her group.

I felt so sad for her, because her expectations for camp were so high. If all the same kids attended, she would have still loved it. But since her group is much smaller, it’s not as fun as she remembers. I think she is feeling the sting of getting older and things changing, even though she wasn’t really ready to move on yet. It broke my heart to see my overly enthusiastic kid feel genuine disappointment.

I took that disappointment as an opportunity to explain to her that one of the reasons her friends are not in camp is because they are attending sleep-away camp or specialized weekly camps, like the stop motion animation camp. She understood.

After our conversation, I emailed the stop motion class to rescind my plea to pull out. I was thankful they had not been able to fill her spot. I also gave myself a little pat on the back for having the foresight to sign her up in the first place, knowing she might want to try something different at this point in the summer.

The weekend before the stop motion class started, Mazzy admitted that she was ready for a change and excited to go. I was so relieved. She woke up  bright and early, picked her favorite outfit and helped me pack her lunch. I drove her a half hour to get to the class, which was at a beautiful modern museum that any kid (or adult!) would be thrilled to spend their day. The class was in a a huge black room with stations, each one outfitted with video cameras, laptops, etc. I watched her eyes light up when she stepped into the room. It looked like her dream come true.

All last week, Mazzy went to the animation camp from 10am-3pm. She got up eagerly, was thrilled to be dropped off and excited to show me the progress on her project each day when I picked her up. “Mom, some of the kids are in high school!” she told me, incredulous, but also with a certain sense of pride. It was such a change in attitude from the fights we had been having about her other camp.

At the end of the week, Mazzy had her final animation presentation. Mike, Harlow, Poppy, Nonna and I all came for the screening. I loved seeing her smile with pride as she pointed out the big screen that would be showing her project. She took a seat next to me in the audience, I squeezed her hand and the lights dimmed. The kids had worked in pairs to create their own short and each was about a minute long. The plot of Mazzy’s short involved a girl, a robot, a dog, tiny tacos, a huge cupcake and a flying desk chair. It was creative and adorable and filled with so many Mazzy-esque details. In the end, I think the cupcake tried to eat them but they were able to get away on the flying chair, but I’m still not 100% sure.

The real happy ending was when Mazzy asked if she could do the stop motion animation camp again next summer, except for two weeks instead of one.

I have no idea if my daughter’s “thing” is going to be stop motion animation now, but I do believe that exposing our kids to stuff like this leaves such a huge impression on what is possible. Not to mention, it made Mazzy excited about next summer and showed her the joy of trying something new. Especially something that is only available to big kids.

Sometimes, moms really do know best.