As The Bus Pulls Away
It is strange and humbling to watch your child go to sleep away camp for the very first time and that is what we did last Sunday. It took me 12 years and 6 months to reach this milestone and it was not without its fair share of drama. I know there are many out there who grew up going to sleep away camp, and then as a rite of passage, send your children without question. I never went to sleep away camp, so these feelings are quite overwhelming.
Last Sunday we had our send off without much fanfare, except the big fat lump growing in my throat. He, along with 34 other kids, took a bus to Cleveland, GA to camp that we didn’t know a whole lot about. In fact, we knew nothing but had the assurances from friends who send their kids each summer. “It’s like a country club for kids” they said and we signed him up without question. Never in my life have I ever been nonchalant about sending my child to a place, anyplace, sight unseen. Packed and ready to go physically, we loaded our one and only along with his summer essentials on a large bus to include clothing, camping gear, and a variety of other prerequisites that we did not previously own. We must have spent an additional $800 on the items that were must haves and will most likely be ruined by the time he gets home. Like, all the clothes, the sleeping bag, the camping chair, the roll for the sleeping bag, and of course, the unusually giant bag to put all the new stuff in. We were excited and terrified at the same time. And when I say “we” I mean me. My son, well, the jury is still out because I haven’t heard from him since he left with the exception of the 1st required letter on day one notifying us that he arrived safely. While I realize this tradition has been on-going for countless years, and parents and children alike benefit from what camp has to offer, it’s a first for me and my husband, and our learning curve is stuck at the beginning of that bell. It was extremely hard to watch the bus pull away, kicking up more than dust from the tires, unsuccessfully holding back my tears.
We tried before. A failed attempt to send him away two summers ago resulted when our move to Raleigh interrupted those plans, and then, we just didn’t. I was comforted by the fact that my son was with me during the transition to my now familiar and comfortable life, a move I struggled to embrace. We moved during the summer months and having my son by my side during that time, provided me with a trusted companion navigating uncharted territory while my husband worked. My son, my first priority, my anchor for the past 12 years was suddenly not at home by my own doing. The lump in my throat grew exponentially larger as I grasped that reality. I knew my child liked to be home; we were committed to send him away (or just committed), and forced the issue. After several melt down’s during the packing process, I vacillated between severing the cord and giving up and into his fears. With tears streaming down his face, desperate pleas not to send him, to long forgotten temper tantrums, we did not waiver, although, to be perfectly honest – I came very close. I was questioning my decision of insisting he go away to camp, while he was perfectly happy staying at home for the summer.
He’ll be gone for a total of month – swimming, sailing, zip lining, hiking, rock climbing, camping, and more activities than I can possibly list. I am certain he is having a better time than if he were to stay home, yet, there is always that moment of doubt as I haven’t received one letter. I even went as far as addressing many envelopes for him before he left, with the hope he’ll write and tell me what an amazing time he’s having. “No news is good news” all veteran parents say. I say, it would be nice to know he’s breathing, that’s all. I don’t want to push it.
My responsibilities suddenly shifted to my self-sufficient husband and the dog, which I consider for the most part, low maintenance. Suddenly, my home life isn’t as demanding –with all of those household chores that are a major pain and inconvenience. Things can wait is my new motto. I don’t have to cook as frequently, my laundry has been cut in half (yes, one child can produce more laundry than I ever thought possible) and I don’t have to drive anyone anywhere, except for myself. Many say this phenomenon, a feeling of recapturing a new found freedom, is a prelude to the college years.
While I originally sent him to sleep away camp to bond with other kids, and enjoy a new experience it really has been a lesson or two for me. My son is getting older and doesn’t need me like he used to. While a part of me (a big part) is sad at this realization, it also brings on a new found independence that all of us will benefit from. As that bus pulled away, my tears almost in check, I realized how much my son grew up overnight. By the time he climbed aboard that bus, he was one step closer to his almost adult self.