June 29, 2017 posted by Lindsay Ferrier

My Son, the Tick Magnet

My Son, the Tick Magnet

Summer camp rocked… except for a few unwanted guests my son brought home with him from an overnight campout in the woods! 

Despite all indications to the contrary, my ten-year-old son somehow survived his harrowing week at sleepaway camp. However, in keeping with this blog’s name, there was indeed some turmoil while he was away.

When I drove to pick him up at the camp’s closing ceremony, Bruiser marched in with his cabin mates, a hangdog expression on his face. Spotting me in the crowd, he raised one arm in a lackluster wave. My son looked emotional. But he also looked exhausted… which generally makes him emotional. I wasn’t overly concerned.

Once we’d made it through the slideshow and the speeches and the chants and the sappy arms-around-each-other-camp-song-with-a-thousand-verses, the kids were dismissed and I made my way through the crowd of campers and parents to give him a big hug. Bruiser put his arms around my waist and buried his face in my side. I don’t think he’s ever hugged me for such a long time before, and while I’d love to think it was because he missed me so much, I believe it had more to do with the fact that he didn’t want any of the other boys to see the tears that were doing their level best to make their way out of his bloodshot eyes. He needn’t have worried — Many of the kids around us were doing the same thing, and no one was paying the slightest attention at that moment to anyone except their parents.

“Did you like camp?” I asked him once I’d managed to extricate him from my side.

“I loved it,” he said with a quavering voice. “It was awesome. I made a lot of friends.”

I signed him out with his counselor and snapped a picture of the two of them together.

“What time did you go to bed last night?” I asked him once he’d bid everyone farewell.

“Coach said we could have an all-nighter,” he told me.

“Oooookay,” I said. That explained the emotion overflow! “Well, let’s get your things together and get out of here.”

We went to collect his belongings at his cabin. His dirty sheets, towels, shorts, t-shirts, and underwear were all piled up on the porch next to his duffel bag — Everything smelled horrific. I debated just throwing it all in the trashcan by the stairs, but after a long pause, my frugal side won out. Grimly, I held my breath as much as possible and stuffed everything in his duffel. I asked Bruiser a few questions as we loaded up his gear, but since he was still clearly trying not to cry, I kept it light. Poor thing. He’d obviously missed me so much.

We got in the car and the tears flowed freely.

“It’s okay, Bruiser,” I consoled him. “I’m here now. I’m sure lots of kids missed their parents just as much as you did.”

“It’s not that,” he sniffed. “I’m going to miss my new friends so much! I may never see them again!”

I’d be lying if I said a small hairline fracture didn’t make its way across my heart at that moment. But I also felt proud that my son was growing up and that the one child we thought couldn’t make it without us for a week had apparently done just fine. In fact, later he told me that three other boys in his cabin had each cried once during the week because they missed their parents, and he’d tried to console them. “I missed you all, too,” he assured me, “but your e-mails helped a lot. Every time I felt myself missing you, I’d read them in your voice in my head, and then I’d feel better.” Heart = Melted.

Overall, camp was a raging success. He told me all about it on the ride home — He loved his new friends, loved the activities, loved staying up late and whispering with his cabin mates  in the dark, loved just about everything, in fact, except the big overnight campout. On that night, the campers all hiked into the woods and slept upon raised platforms in their sleeping bags, as opposed to their air conditioned cabins. Bruiser wasn’t scared, he said — He just had a problem with the bugs. They all did.

“I picked like 9 ticks off me with my fingernails,” he complained. My hands gripped the steering wheel tightly. My eyes widened. “Are you sure they were TICKS?” I croaked.

“Yes!” he said. “Everyone was pulling them off. One kid cried because there was blood!”

I began feeling itchy all over. Once we got home, there would be a thorough inspection. I shuddered to think of it — There’s not much I hate more than pulling ticks off my kids. Ughhhh.

We got home and I sent Bruiser straight to the showers. When he was done, I took a look at him to assess the damage. It was considerable — All told, I pulled at least 15 ticks off of him and he had more than 50 bites all over his body, mostly on the parts that were covered by clothing. Yes, he’d had bug spray and he’d used it, but he’s ten and I wasn’t surprised he hadn’t thought to spray it in the places where ticks like to hide. I wouldn’t have, either.

That was two weeks ago and we’ve kept an eye on him since then for signs of Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever– So far, he seems to be okay. He wants to go to camp again next year, but I’m not quite sure how to handle the tick issue, and I don’t really understand how other parents deal with ticks when their kids go off to camp for much longer periods of time. What could he use next time to keep the ticks at bay? I’m thinking of sending him with Skin So Soft and instructing him to put it everywhere after each shower. It’s not as good as Off!, but he really can’t spray Off! everywhere it needs to be to keep ticks away. I also wonder if most camps’ nurses do periodic tick checks of the campers — I can see how that would be problematic, since ticks tend to latch on in some very embarrassing places.

Has anyone else dealt with this kind of thing, or is my kid just a tick magnet?

This is really gonna bug me…


Header image via Jenn Raynes/Flickr Creative Commons