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Our Daughter’s the Only Child While Our Son’s at Camp—And She Has Totally Changed

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This summer, for the first time, our son is spending two weeks at summer camp. It’s something he begged for last year and that he seems to be thoroughly enjoying, based on the photos that show his face close to breaking from the width of his smile.

I’m still working for a few more weeks; my husband is working too, so our daughter is in day camp. Her days are much like they were during the school year, minus the big yellow bus. She rises early, get dressed, hair and teeth brushed, eats breakfast and is out the door. I pick her up late in the afternoon and we head home after running a few errands. It’s not that different from our September to June routine, really.

However, she is utterly transformed. Our daughter has what I would kindly call a very strong personality. We joke about her leadership skills, praying that her tendency to order people around will mellow, with time, into an asset. She’s strong-willed, tenacious, frank, and often highly dramatic.

She tells me several times a week that I’m “ruining her life” by doing such outrageous things as going to an evening meeting, asking her to clean her room, or taking her with me while I run errands. These melodramatic scenes hardly faze us any more; strangers may stare but we keep moving along.

So we’ve been suitably shocked by her behavior since her brother left for camp. She’s a different kid—cheerful, relaxed, and suddenly able to weather the bumps of life without dissolving into a weeping rage. She’s still not thrilled about running errands or, really, doing anything that’s not on her agenda, but she can express her disappointment without completely loosing it.

Today her protest at being taken to the grocery store consisted only of a little whining and pretending to be asleep in her car seat. That’s it. For her, that’s nothing. I was able to quickly cajole her with the promise that she could choose the cereal. I felt like the mother of the year.

She clearly adores having all of the adult attention focused on her and she makes no bones about not missing her brother. It’s a little scary because, of course, he is coming back (I feel compelled to insert a “Baruch Hashem” here). Although we make an effort to spend one-on-one time with both our kids (divide and conquer is an apt euphemism) two-on-one time is pretty hard to come by.

So where does this leave us? Are we going to have to send them to camp on separate schedules in order to get an annual glimpse of this other, happier daughter?

If nothing else, it’s been a good reminder that some of the more challenging aspects of her personality may be as much reactions to the situation as they are inherent to who she is.

Obviously, making her the center of attention in order to spare ourselves a temper tantrum isn’t an option. I am however left thinking about sibling relationships and the assumptions we make about how well siblings should get along and how much they ought to enjoy the experience of sharing life together.

This only child honeymoon of hers has been revealing for us as parents—but it’s definitely left us with more questions than answers.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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