This is a big summer in our house this year. Yesterday we took our oldest 8-year-old daughter to the bus drop-off for camp. She’s off to sleep away camp for the week, 7 days! This isn’t the first time my daughter has been away from home; she did go away for a weekend with her Brownie troop in May (Mother’s Day weekend I might add). I had some difficulty dealing with that too. But this camp, she’ll be away for a whole week, at a camp, where she doesn’t know anyone.
The days leading up to camp I helped my daughter label and pack everything. I was trying to stay upbeat and excited for her. I mean this is exciting stuff, going away to sleep in a cabin, rock climbing, camp fires, lake swimming. It all sounded great. It would be great. I told her it was okay to be nervous or a little scared about a new adventure, other girls would be experiencing the same feelings. Her response to me was ‘Nervous? I’m not nervous. I wish I was already there.’ I’m glad she’s not scared but I must admit the response wasn’t one I was ready to hear.
Even when we took her to the bus (we could drive her right to camp but she insisted on riding the bus and singing songs and making friends right away), she was eager to say goodbye and find her seat. It was us, her parents, who kept going on and off the bus to give her that one last kiss, again and again. We waited in the hot sun until the bus pulled away and watched it enter the highway.
I’m sure she’ll be fine. She’s a lot like her dad in that she likes meeting new people. My oldest daughter has always had the gift of finding people who are shy or new or nervous and drawing them in, making them feel at ease and comfortable. I mean the whole bus was practically empty and where does she choose to sit, right beside another first time camp girl. Before the bus had even pulled out of the parking lot the two girls were absorbed in my daughter’s Worst Case Scenario Book: The Weird Edition.
This is my daughter’s first real summer camp experience; this is our first real summer camp experience. I don’t think it’s uncommon for any parent to wish the best for their children. Last night, with tears in my eyes, I laid in bed thinking about my daughter, hoping she would have cabin mates she would enjoy hanging out with, that she wouldn’t be excluded or encounter any bullies, that she would enjoy every aspect of every camp day from when she wakes up to when she closes her eyes.
I’m sure when we pick her up next Saturday she’ll be disapointed to leave camp but will be brimming with stories.
As if dealing with my oldest daughter being away for a week wasn’t enough, my 5-year-old and 3-year-old started day camp today. My son is moving into the big kid camp and he’s thrilled. He’s always been very independent; even as a baby he slept on his own at 2 months and enjoyed it that way. It was no surprise to see him say goodbye and march into camp on his own, not a worry or care.
Then it was time for my youngest, my baby, to go to her camp. This is the first year the city has increased the camp hours for the 3 to 5 year old group. It use to be a half-day but now it’s a full day. My 3-year-old has spent all her time with me, no preschool, no other programs with the exception of swimming class. I’ve always thought of my youngest to be more like me, shy and introverted. If anyone would have issues with separating from me, trying new things, it would be my youngest. But she proved me wrong today. She was quick to say goodbye and head up the ramp to her camp. There was no running back for a last minute hug and kiss, no tears, not fighting and pleading for me to come in with her or stay for just a little bit. Nope, she’s been looking forward to this and she was gone.
As I walked home, alone, I couldn’t help but start crying. Don’t get me wrong, I am very happy for my kids to experience summer camp. I’m thrilled that they are adventerous and comfortable with themselves to take these steps without me. So why am I so sad? Why am I crying right now as I write this? And I’m not a big crier (though I did cry when my son graduated from Kindergarten this year and even when I watched and reviewed the new Toy Story 3 movie).
Working from home it’s kind of nice to not have the fightening in the next room or to run to the school for lunch pick-up. But it’s also so quiet that I’m having a hard time concentrating. I miss hearing their voices, even if it’s a dispute over Lego. All this independence my kids are showing is great and is a sign that they’re growing up. I guess I’m just not ready for that yet. So bear with me if I breakout into uncontrollable tears this summer. At least I’ll get lots of practice in before my 3-year-old starts school for the first time this Fall.