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Before the bus pulls away – part 2

The planning started the day he got home last summer. The plan was to send my son again to sleep away camp after a successful first summer. You might recall, he was panicked, begged us not to send him – a decision to go through with sending him was weighted heavily and nearly broke my heart. I almost caved in by giving into his anxiety.   I struggled with the idea of sending him, especially when he was so frightened, of feeding his fears, of letting go of his childhood too soon and forcing his independence of me by shipping him off to what seemed like prison (according to him).   In reality, he was going to a sleep away camp that was more like nirvana for kids – a camp situated in the mountains of Georgia, with beautiful lakes, zip lines, unbelievable water sports and activities galore that it made me yearn for my childhood again – and wishing I said yes to my parents when sleep away camp was once offered. My son, very much like me, says ‘no’ first, asking questions later, possibly experiencing some regret along the way.

From the day my son got home last summer, his discussions revolved around camp. At first, only bits and pieces would emerge but after a slumber of 15 hours, his hoarse voice shared with me how much he loved camp and what an awesome time he had. Words I thought I would never hear and definitely not a month earlier when we dropped him at the bus. My son came home different. He was more self-reliant, more independent, more social, more of everything that I love about him, he grew into a teenager while he was away.   His face was the same, but parts of his persona changed. Most notably, his confidence increased, and his enthusiasm about camp radiated from his tanned physique (hmm, he didn’t use the sunscreen I sent) as he gave me a big hug to say thank you for the few weeks away. It was priceless and was all that I could have hoped for.

As soon as the opportunity presented itself, I registered him for this summer, saving, saving, saving so he could experience the mysteries of camp all over again. And the countdown began roughly around October 15th.

While I am extremely excited that he couldn’t wait for this day to come and my hope is that he will love it that much more than last summer, it is me who is having the harder time adjusting, this go around. I find myself a surprisingly sad, surprisingly lost.   I was the one who couldn’t wait for this day. Frankly, I was getting mildly frustrated with my 13 year old’s behavior, as he sometimes acted as if the world revolved around him (more than sometimes over the past few days ). I am told this is a common affliction of children whose calendar ages range between 12- 17.   School had let out in early June, and I purposely didn’t plan any activities for two weeks. He had the luxury of “chilling out”, but it was me who was suddenly feeling frost bite, like I was left out in the cold and forgot how to breathe.   I had been reduced to driving him and picking him up. And, what seemed like a daily occurrence, was me doling out $20s for activities that revolved around meeting his friends for dinner and a movie, going out to lunch with friends, going to the mall with friends, going to the pool, eating from the snack bar, etc. The list was endless but most importantly, the list of activities didn’t involve me, with the minor exception of purchasing something for him for camp.   My son had already left, so to speak, as he was barely home. While I was fine, more than fine, packing him up, and getting him to the bus this morning, I was left feeling like I lost my purpose. I hadn’t thought about what I would do after I dropped him at the bus, besides going to the supermarket.  At least the past few weeks I was ‘involved’ in his life by chauffeuring, by being his banker, by feeding him, by taking a look in his room after he’s fallen asleep. My comfort was that he was under our roof, the majority of the time.

I know this seems ridiculous because those of you who know me, know, I waited for this day, the day where he felt confident enough to go out on his own, to find a good group of friends (the ‘squad’ as they  refer to themselves), and to want to be away from home. While I realize this is a very good thing – every parent hopes for the moment where kids cut the cord, and honestly I couldn’t be prouder, but I realize that it is time for me to rediscover what’s important to me, and what doesn’t involve my son.  It’s a difficult adjustment to fully accept – a realization that he doesn’t need the constant hovering, the watchful eye that I am afflicted with, the watching you like a hawk mentality. I am sure there are many other parents who suffer from the same misfortune.

While I was feeling a little sorry for myself, I am also feeling a sense of freedom – I can do what I want, when I want. OK, not really but almost – I still have the responsibilities of work, my husband and my dog but still, those few hours in the late afternoon, early evening I can call my own – just like having dessert before dinner.  Golf lessons, some new decorating, P90X, and a slew of other things have suddenly moved up a few notches on my to-do list.

As we were saying our goodbyes waiting for the bus to load up and load out, my friend, a mom of one of the boys asked the ‘squad’ if they will miss us while they were away at camp. My son readily admitted he was going to, and the only one who admitted it aloud. I held it together, fighting off the tears until they climbed onto the bus.   I thought to myself that I must be doing something right.   Suddenly, it wasn’t all that bad, that I wasn’t purposeless – that a few simple words from my son, changed how I felt about his departure and eventual return to the nest.  The next month doesn’t look so daunting.   Now about that golf lesson…..

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