We dropped our oldest son off at his first ever week of camp yesterday afternoon. He is at a summer camp on a little island, just a short ferry ride from the town we live in. His best friend is there, and the camp director is a friend of ours. It couldn’t be any safer. For weeks I have been talking to my first-born about the camp, asking him if he is excited, and wondering how he would do.
What I didn’t really stop to think about was how I would do.
And boy oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, am I NOT doing well. I am failing miserably at being the Mom who is TOTALLY cool with her 9-year-old living in a tent on an island in the pacific for a week. I am at “might need medication to get through this” bad.
It’s not as extreme as it sounds. The camp he is at is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. That means that they have gone 70 years without losing a kid. It’s likely they know what they are doing. There’s a nurse, and lifeguards and all the usual safety guidelines and rules. It seems like a wonderful, safe, and loving place for kids to spend a week learning about themselves,and the outdoors. It really does. He is going to make new friends, and memories that will last a lifetime. He is getting a chance to deepen his self-identity and to grow.
I know this is all true.
But all I could do last night was PANIC. There I was, wide awake in my bed, all googly-eyed, in the dark – 1:30, 2:30, 3:30…4:30am, panicking that I won’t know how he is doing for FIVE, yah that’s right FIVE! days. I started imagining my son swimming (he’s more of a “flapper” than a swimmer), and then no one (not one of those energetic Christian teen councilors) noticing as he slowly loses his strength and starts to slide under the surface. Yep, I went to THAT place. I started questioning the insanity of sending a just-turned 9-year-old to camp. We don’t even allow sleepovers, and now he is spending 5 nights in a wall tent with 9 other boys. Probably with some sound-asleep, snoring, zit-faced teenager as his councilor.
Was I insane? What on earth was I thinking? I said to my husband between deep, cleansing breaths (so as not to pass out) “I think we made a mistake. He’s too young. Those people don’t love him like we do”. All my husband could say was “yah, those wall tents have no ventilation – the air in there is going to be rank by morning”.
Really Mom, what the fudge?
I realize now, more than ever before, that I have some serious trust issues. I am shocked at how poorly I am handling this. And embarrassed. I know about my control and trust issues. They are not new to me. I have always thought that the pilot of the jet should just let me fly, since I will pay WAY better attention to what is going on up there. And I admit, I find it (VERY) hard to let “Swervin’ Mervin” aka my husband, drive our family anywhere. And I may attend some (ALL) school field trips. I have issues. I had issues. Lately I am getting too tired and lazy to attend ALL the field trips. But if said excursions involve other parents driving my kids in motor vehicles, or watching them while near water, I am SO THERE.
Why am I like this? I surely didn’t learn this from my Singapore Sling-drinking 70’s parents who let me run around barefoot in the forest at our cabin (that fronted on a lake…a very deep lake) playing “kick-the-can” until midnight. Where were my parents? Listening to Kenny Rogers and kicking back with friends on the patio, with not a clue where the children were.
Nope. This is my own neurosis. It runs deeper than parenthood. But I have this summer camp to thank for making it glaringly obvious that there is some work to be done here in KOOKOO-land (otherwise known as my brain). Why am I so afraid of letting go? Easy to answer – I know how excruciatingly painful loss is. I know what it looks like when a Mother loses her child. And my way of protecting myself from more of that kind of pain is to control, protect, and fight for my children’s safety. But in the end, I realize, I can’t wrap them in bubble-wrap. I can’t stop them from running barefoot in the forest. I can’t stop them from “dropping-in” to a concrete swimming pool on their tiny bikes.
And I can’t fly the plane.
Letting go is what I need to do – a little at a time. I don’t want to. But just as I am resisting the urge to drive out to camp and see how my son is doing, I will be stronger than I really am. I will force myself to fight against that panic. I will try to over-ride irrational fear with courage.
I will have to let go, to let them grow.