I’m raising my kids to be good ‘group’ kids. They’ve been going to the YMCA and playing with the other kids there, taking swim lessons, playing sports since preschool – or sometimes even earlier. They’ve been dropped off at various afternoon events without me for years. Each summer they go to at least two weeks of day camps and love them all. I’ve made sure they are put in situations where they don’t have a parent with them so they can start to gain some independence, learn how to make friends, and not be afraid of new experiences.
With that said, I was still very surprised when my oldest child (11) asked to go to summer camp this year. The first time she asked I thought it might just be a whim. But when she kept asking over & over, her father & I decided to look into some options. We found a good one just 40 minutes away. And after talking it over with her, we felt this was something she really wanted to do – and something we really wanted for her. She didn’t want to go with a friend – she seemed determined to have a true camp experience: making friends on her own, living in a cabin, enjoying the outdoors… the whole thing. And so a week was selected and written on the calendar.
For the past couple of weeks the subject of camp has come up in a few situations. Situations where she was obviously a bit concerned about elements of being on her own. The night before she was a little teary at the prospect of being away from home for that long. And yesterday was the big drop-off day. She was far calmer than I expected during packing. When we arrived she was all eyes – trying to figure out the ‘right’ thing to do. We got her checked in; found her cabin; met her counselor; made her bunk and unpacked a few of her things. She was instructed to change into her swimsuit and go down to the lake. We walked her there – after she determined that other parents were doing the same, so it was okay – and with her very bravest face she gave a quick hug and walked off.
That’s the hardest part – her very bravest face. I could tell that she was so nervous. I could almost feel her nerves in the pit of my stomach. And yet she was determined to make this work. I so wanted to hide somewhere to watch. I wanted to make sure she started talking to someone else. I wanted to see for myself that she was settled in and starting to get comfortable. But of course, I couldn’t. I’ll have to wait for her first letter home in a day or so.
I know this is going to be a wonderful week for her for so many reasons. I’m positive that when it comes time to pick her up Saturday morning, she will be bubbling over with excitement over the week that she had. But I also know that her first night was probably not so easy and I’m stuck in that terrible parent’s dilemma of knowing that it’s not easy for her but not being able to do a darn thing about it – and knowing that I wouldn’t do anything even if I could, because it’s all part of helping them grow up. Sigh… I hope she mails a letter home soon so I can stop wondering.