Getting there

Getting there

Monday, July 18, 2011

Going to Camp

She was nine when she started talking about going to camp. When I was growing up I never went to camp - it's not something my parents would have even considered. Summer holidays weren't about sending a kid to camp, they were about interminable visits to and from farming relatives that drove you insane with country music and weird habits like playing banjos until 4 am while wearing women's wigs (seriously, in my family, it was). But my daughter had a different idea - she wanted to go to camp. Sleep-away camp. For six nights.

My daughter is an only child. She is my one and only, my gift to the future wrapped up in a tiny precocious package. There is no doubt she is spoiled. There is no doubt I am deeply protective of her. There is no doubt that sending her away to camp for a week terrified me slightly. She had never really spent a night away from me, or I from her (and when we were apart her father was with her, always). She was ready, though, to try camp.

She had been at day camps for years in the summer - engineering camps, and science camps. At the end of every day I had picked her up, though, and I was there for bedtime hugs and teeth brushing. If she went away to camp who would hug her at night? Who would remind her to brush her teeth so she didn't get cavities?

She found a camp she wanted to attend. Sleeping in teepees, and science activities during the day. It was hosted by a world-class science institution. The first thing I noted was the availability of a family camp - we could all go for three days! But no, she said. The point, she said, was to do it on her own. Without me. I don't deny the small arrow that sent through my heart, but I'd always known the day would come. I just hadn't expected it when she was still so young.

So, with trepidation I signed her up for camp. The day we dropped her off she was ebullient and happy, and walked away towards the camp with nary a backward glance. I, of course, was in tears. When we picked her up a week later she was exhausted and filthy and perhaps even more ebullient. Had she brushed her teeth? Sometimes. Had anyone hugged her goodnight? No, and she didn't need it. Had she missed me? A little. Had she had a brilliant time, the best time ever? Oh yes. Oh yes, she had.

This past month she went to sleep-away camp again, her third year now. Every year she loves it a little bit more, and next year she will be able to attend the senior camp, away from all the "annoying little kids", as she calls them. She plans to keep attending camp and, as soon as she is able, become a counsellor. She has become a well-known camper with the organizers and the institution, and she is welcomed back every year with open arms. She has introduced friends to the camp, too, and shown them the wonders of a week without parents or siblings.

And me? Dear friends, I now drop her off at camp with a smile, knowing that she will have a wonderful week. I know that her growth as a person does not diminish her need for me, or mine for her - it's just a week that allows us both to do the things we need and want to do, without each other for a bit. We are still as close as a mother and daughter can be, and I hope we always remain that close, too. I love her with a ferocity and intensity that knows no bounds, and yet with the kind of love that knows that a week at camp is just what she needs to grow. In fact, maybe it's what we both need. Just maybe we both need to go to camp once in awhile.

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