On Monday morning, we packed our 6th graders bags into our van and headed off in the pouring rain to school at 5 in the morning. It was the day he would leave for 6th grade camp.
When I was in 6th grade, I wasn’t allowed to go to 6th grade camp. (“You only want to go to chase the BOYS!”) I was one of 5 kids to stay behind. I hated every minute of that week. And I hated the following week even more. I had to listen to everyone talk about how much fun it was! The campfires! The songs! The plays! Ugh. I always said I would never deprive my children of such experiences. So when we moved to a new school district last year and found out there would be 6th grade camp at the new school, there was no question in my mind he would go. If he wanted to go. (Which, of course he did.)
We were all excited about the trip– it was the topic of dinner conversations pretty much every night. And then over the weekend, we went shopping to get everything he needed for the trip. Flashlights, rain ponchos, disposable cameras, water bottles and so on and so forth.
“Are you excited?” I’d ask him. Every 5 minutes.
“I’m so excited, Mom!” He say. Every time.
And as it got closer, he’d add “but I’m also nervous.”
“Why?” I’d ask. “You’re going to have so much fun! No need to be nervous.”
“But I’m going to miss home.” He’d say.
And I’d fight back the tears and try to be strong and say something supportive like “We’re going to miss you too, but you know what? The time is going to fly and you’re going to have so much fun, you won’t miss us once you’re there.”
Then, I’d hug him.
On Sunday night, after we packed everything and double checked the bag at least 20 times, I kissed him good night, shut his door and went straight to my room to write him a letter.
You see, every time my children leave to go on any kind of a trip without me I write them a letter and tuck it away in their bag where they’ll find it when they unpack. It started as a way for me to deal with the emotion of sending my boys on a trip without me, and ended up being a tradition that they love and look forward to.
As I was writing his letter, I began to get nervous. This was the first trip he’d go on where he wasn’t with a family member. This was the first trip in which I WOULD NOT HAVE CONTACT WITH HIM FOR THREE ENTIRE DAYS. It was the first time I felt apprehension about letting him go. Up until that point, it was like “it will be a great experience! He’ll have wonderful memories to carry with him for the rest of his life!” I think it’s natural to be nervous and feel over protective when your children are going to be out of your care. The trick is to know when that fear is warranted and when to take a deep breath and let them experience and enjoy life.
After I finished the letter and tucked it away in his bag and headed off to bed. Four hours later, I was kneeling by his bed, whispering in his ear.
“Wake up, dude. It’s time to leave for camp!”
He opened one eye. “Already?”
“Yep. Why don’t you go eat breakfast. We have to leave in 20 minutes.”
The morning went by smoothly, because for the first time in maybe EVER, I had everything ready to go. There was no frantic running around the house saying “BUT WHERE IS THIS? AND WHERE IS THAT? AND OH MY GOD I CAN’T FIND THAT ONE THING I REALLY NEED.” I think I need to try the whole “Being Organized” thing more often.
We arrived at the school at 5:20. It was freezing cold and it was pouring rain. I could tell The Boy was excited, but also nervous. I did my best to assure him he was going to have the Most! Fun! Ever!
“I know I will.” He said. “I’m just going to miss home.”
(My heart! It hurt!)
Once we entered the multipurpose room, there were what seemed like hundreds of kids in there. He found his friends and they all gave each other fist bumps and secret handshakes while they laughed and talked about the trip. I knew in that instant he was going to be just fine.
When it was time for the kids to get on the bus, I hugged him, kissed him and said all of the motherly things to him “have fun! Be careful! Stay with your group at all times! I LOVE YOU!”
“Love you too, Mom. Love you Dad.” He said and then he disappeared into the big yellow bus.
The entire drive home, we talked about how much we were going to miss him, but how thrilled we were that he was going to have this awesome experience. But after I got home and the hours passed by, I begin to dwell on the fact that I won’t be able to have any contact with him or be able to see him for 3 ENTIRE DAYS.
I finally cried.
All last night, I kept turning to Tony and saying things like “do you think he’ll be warm enough tonight?” “Did we pack him enough socks?” “What if he hates the food and is hungry?”
And today, I’m missing him something FIERCE. Maybe I’m a freak of a mother, but I’m not liking this whole “not being able to talk to my kid at least once a day to make sure he’s okay” business. Deep down, I know he’s fine and that he IS having the experience of his short little life time, so I take comfort in that.
Luckily, it’s only a three day trip, so he’ll be home tomorrow. I don’t think my heart could stand an entire week of this.