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Jun 27 2011

First Day of Camp, No Looking Back

By at 12:00 pm

“Let’s go, let’s go!” My 6-year-old son is champing at the proverbial bit in the front hallway, doing that dance from foot to foot. The dance makes me wonder aloud if he has to pee.

“I don’t have to pee! I have to go to camp!!” he says.

Um, yes, I understand – the kid is excited. I got the message when he came into my room fully dressed at 5:30 am, in blatant contravention of the “don’t go into Mommy’s room till 7” rule, saying, “What time does the bus come again?”

My boys go to day camp under an hour away from the house – this will be my 7-year-old’s third summer, and my 6-year-old’s second. They adore it. They swim, do arts and crafts, play various sports, and sweat a lot. They come home stinky, their hair utterly disheveled, with the wildly happy eyes of kids who have been outside all day. They eat their dinner, shower and sometimes fall asleep in the middle of their bedtime stories because of all the activity.

“Let’s go, let’s go!” the older one says, picking up his bag full of swimsuits, towels, sunscreen and everything else requested of us parents to pack for the first day.

“The bus isn’t coming for another 10 minutes at least,” I tell them.

“So let’s wait outside!” they say together.

We sit on the front step. They stand up each time they hear a car. Or a squirrel, for that matter. Or a bird.

Ten minutes pass.

“Where is the bus?” they ask me.

“Well, it’s the first day – it’s usually a little late.”

“How come?”

“Because don’t you remember when it was your first day at camp?” I ask them. “And you were scared, and the bus came, and I had to walk you to the bus, and the counselor had to hold your hand and take you on because you were so nervous? There are little kids like that on the bus, and the bus counselor has to help them out.”

They guffaw with bravado (the bravado, I might add, that was conspicuously absent during last night’s Splinter Extraction, aka The Screamathon). “We’re not like that anymore, Mommy.”

“No, you’re not,” I say, smiling at them.

And they’re not. And next year, I’ll probably have transitioned to “Mom.” Maybe they’ll even start thinking of sleepaway camp. Dear God. I push the thought out of my head.

“I think I hear something,” I say.

They lean forward. “It’s the bus! It’s the bus!”

Smiles on their faces, they pick up their bags and walk up to the bus. I recognize the driver from last year. She waves and smiles, pointing at my hugely pregnant belly and giving me the thumbs up, reminding me I’ll still be home with someone, even when the two boys are gone.

“Bye, guys,” I say, wondering if I’ll get a hug. I know better than to expect a kiss – someone told the older one that kissing your mom is a total no-go. I hate that random kid.

No hug. They bound up the steps of the bus, waving and smiling.

As the bus pulls away, I’m surprised:  I feel unexpectedly giddy. Not for the reasons you’d think — I actually am sort of sorry that they’re going to be gone two hours more than they are on regular school days. I really like these kids, after all.

No, I realize. I feel giddy because my guys are leaving and doing something without me that excites them, and it’s an experience that’s entirely theirs, not including me.  We’re well past the point of diapers and holding their hands as they take their first steps. Now they are starting to go places and in directions of their choosing.

It’s still baby steps, of course –the day camp bus does come home in time for dinner each day. But as they wave goodbye from the window and drive away, I feel proud. I feel proud of them, for being self-confident and brave and excited for a new summer and new adventure – oddly, it makes me feel like I’ve done something right. And, similarly, I feel proud of myself, for turning toward the house and walking away without looking back.


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