My eldest is leaving for summer camp today. He just turned nine, and his primary concern of camp is “getting hit by balls during sports”. (He’s not exactly into team sports) My biggest concern has to do with his personal hygiene, as I fondly remember not showering once during my own first year of sleep-away camp 28 years ago. I have a feeling that in 2 weeks time, at pick up, he’ll run out to me in the exact same outfit he’s in right now, only it’s crusted over in two weeks worth of filth and food and, in a dirty poetic way, fun.
Obviously there’s far worse things to worry about when it comes to camp.
But, here we go. Another step closer to letting my little boy off the leash, another notch in the way to independence. Two full weeks away from my prying eyes, two weeks of him living in the world without us knowing his every move. I remember when he walked into elementary school for his first day of kindergarten, backpack on his shoulders as he marched into the gymnasium without us (this school did not allow parents into the school on the first day, or any day, during drop off). That feeling of letting go, watching him face a fraction of the world without me there, I’ll never forget it.
And today, it takes it to an entirely new level.
We celebrated his ninth birthday last week, and I remembered the actual weight of responsibility I felt the first time I held him. Motherhood didn’t come easy to me, those first time instincts were forced I can now admit, and the first few weeks with him were a jumbled mix of anxiety and angst. I didn’t want to do anything wrong, and I was clueless on the care of newborns. But E, even as a newborn, was patient. His demeanor allowed me to learn parenting, with him. I’ve always felt like E is an old soul, and he picked me – a stumbling, free spirit, as his mom.
I discovered the camp he’s going to while at the gym. It’s through the YMCA and the brochure just screamed “SUMMER FUN”. I knew instantly that E would love the experience of sleep away camp, that it would teach him confidence and friend making skills. It took a little convincing to my husband, but finally agreed. (I think people, like me, who’ve been to sleep away camp, get it. My husband never went to sleep away camp). E, for his part, has never expressed anything but excitement for the upcoming adventure.
I woke up this morning a bundle of nerves. It’s almost like I’m the one attending camp. My husband is out of town, so it will just be me watching him walk into his cabin today, just me meeting his counselors, just me driving away in the van missing one member of the family. The emptiness E will leave in our house is gonna be gigantic. I’m going to miss his presence every morning, as he’s usually the one waking me up, and at night. The littles won’t fully understand why he’s gone.
But I know why. Sleep away camp is part of growing up, I think. I hope it instills a sense of wonder for my boy, adventure, appreciation of outdoors and woods, the joy and fun of meeting new people from all over. These next two weeks will drag for us here at home, but for my boy I hope they fly by in a whirl of fun.