So, you know that mom who you see at camp drop-off who’s sobbing behind her sunglasses hoping that no one will notice? Yeah, turns out I’m that mom. #I’mScrewedWhenThisKidGoesToCollege
~ Diary’s Facebook Status, June 28th, 2012
This growing up stuff is good and bad, good because it moves our babies away from us and into the world they must deal with to be successful, and bad, because it moves our babies away from us and into the world they must deal with to be successful.
I’m not quite sure what we’re supposed to do next. We’ve set up Katie’s bunk and found a home for all of her stuff. We’ve helped her tack her pictures to the wall by her bed – a collage of love and familiarity. We’ve met her bunkmate and we’ve wandered around the grounds with another couple of families. We’ve dipped our toes in the lake and we’ve peeked into the mess and the nurse’s shack. We’ve joked with the counselors and we’ve met the directors. I don’t want to leave, but I’m afraid of lingering too long.
This wasn’t how I’d pictured it. It was supposed to be different. Katie wouldn’t be standing alone on her cabin’s front porch when we left; she’d be, oh, I don’t know, doing something – playing a game, singing a song, getting to know people, making s’mores for heaven’s sake .. but doing something. This just isn’t the way it was supposed to go.
I look over to a patch of lawn, just a few yards away. A group of kids is playing some sort of game with a couple of counselors. They’re all running after his flashlight, shouting and laughing hysterically. It looks like a ball.
“Katie,” I say, “why don’t you go join those girls? That looks like fun, doesn’t it?”
She looks over at them. I follow her gaze and look at the scene through her eyes. Almost all of the girls look younger than her. By a lot.
“No thanks,” she says. “I’m not really in the mood for that. I think I’ll just go hang out in my bunk for a little bit.”
This isn’t the way this was supposed to go. “Hang out in my bunk” is terrifying me. “Hang out in my bunk” is alone. Alone isn’t the way this was supposed to go.
“Honey,” I say carefully, “I’m a little worried about you hanging out alone right now.”
Two girls walk by, giggling. We watched them run to each other earlier, thrilled to have reconnected with last year’s friends.
“It’s just that, well, this is the time when people are meeting each other, making connections. I just don’t want you to miss out on that.”
She looks at me thoughtfully.
“It’s ok, Mama,” she says. “I won’t spend too much time there. I just need a little time by myself, ya know?”
I do know. But it still scares me.
“Are you sure?” I ask.
“Yup. I’m just not ready yet. But I really will be social; I promise.”
There’s something in her face. A new confidence. A self-assurance. She knows what she needs.
The camp director walks over, smiles at Katie first, then at us. She asks if we’ve been down to the waterfront. Katie tells her that we have and that she can’t wait to swim. The director looks at her. “I can make that happen,” she says. “See, it says it right here.” She points to her name tag. The one with the words CAMP DIRECTOR written on it. Katie laughs. The director looks back at her. “Yup, swimming it is.” She checks her watch, then heads off after promising that she’ll get the whole camp in the water before the day is through. She leaves Katie with a wink that implies the rest - Ya know, after we get these pesky parents out of here.
Katie smiles at me, then wraps her arms around my waist. I hug her with everything I have and tell her how proud I am of her. I know it’s time, but I hang on for an extra beat.
I’m not ready for this, but she is. So I take a deep breath and walk to the car, leaving my heart behind.
Hugs from Daddy
Hugs from Mama
Hugs from little sis