Every time my daughter goes away to overnight camp, there is something different about her when she returns home.
The first year she went away, she came back practically self-sufficient. I was so impressed at how well she took care of herself. I didn’t have to remind her to brush her teeth. She didn’t need any help in picking out her clothes. She even made her bed without my asking for a short period of time—and then she went back to forgetting how to do it altogether.
Last summer, she got into the car and had something important to say. I could tell that there was a big announcement on the horizon. She had a look like she knew something that we didn’t know. I could tell she was taking a moment to enjoy that with a satisfied smile on her face.
As she got settled into the back seat of the car, she heard me unwrap my chicken salad sandwich. She peered over my shoulder and made a face.
“Are you really going to eat that?” she asked with distaste.
I replied yes and offered her the other chicken salad sandwich. I secretly patted myself on the back for buying her favorite kind and remembering to bring it with us for her to enjoy on the ride home. She had been denied this comfort food while she was away and I thought the gesture would be appreciated.
She waved it away.
“I’m a vegetarian now,” she informed us with great pride and enthusiasm. When I asked her how she came upon that decision, she said that she didn’t want animals to be killed just so she could eat.
Okay…makes sense. I guess. But was this for real? Where did this come from? I wondered how many of her bunk mates were also informing their parents about this decision on their way home. Were there late night discussions on the benefits of being a vegetarian versus a carnivore in the cabin? Were recipes exchanged?
Perhaps this conversation happened in the cafeteria after seeing the less than desirable camp food that was passed around the table at dinner. Was the mystery meat that much of a factor in this?
Regardless of where she picked this up or from whom, I knew that taco night would never be the same again. I would now have to include a vegetarian component. I realized that I would be making a separate dinner for her instead of her favorite meat loaf. I had to expand my cooking skills–which were already lacking–and embrace things like tofu and quinoa. Neither of which, I have yet to master.
Seven months later, we discovered eggplant and have enjoyed that on numerous occasions. This isn’t just a passing phase and I continue to be so proud of her for sticking to her values and her healthy eating habits.
This week, she leaves for camp again and I can’t help but wonder what she will learn this summer. What new regimen will she adopt? Whatever it is, I hope that it includes making her bed every morning. A mom can dream, can’t she?