When my second son was 8 years old, he decided to that he wanted to go to camp. My husband and I were all for it. We went to different camps but we both loved, loved it. Did I mention loved? We both started our camper careers young, me at age 8 him at age 10.
We chose a camp, my husband’s alma mater, made the necessary arrangements early in the year, and talked about how great an experience it would be for him. We regaled him with tales of our camp adventures, boating, color wars, girl boy singalons, trips to town, hikes, camp outs, and ghost stories. Even my mother-in-law got in on the action; she told him about unpacking his father’s trunk when he got home and finding the new packages of underwear that she had sent unopened. Gross…but so campy…
I looked forward to his camp trip for practical reasons as well: one less load of laundry, one less kid to get up and out in the morning, one less person for his siblings to fight with, one less kid to complain about dinner.
But then something strange happened. As the days crept closer towards his departure date, I started to have second thoughts. What am I doing, he is 8 years old, let’s say he hates it, let’s say the kids make fun of him, let’s say he’s homesick…He was my baby, I gave birth to him, nursed him, took care of him, and now I am sending him off for two whole weeks?
The day came to send him off and I woke up with butterflies in my stomach. We took him out for lunch and then some of our extended family (we are a close knit bunch) met at the bus to see him off. My son clung to us–he didn’t know any of the kids–and then in a burst of courage left us and got onto the bus solo.
As the bus pulled out, I waved energetically, but then I started to sob, heaving sobs, and I’m not a crier… I could not believe it. I felt like someone had ripped my beating heart out of my chest and I was watching it being put on that camp bus.
But thankfully, that was only the first year. All my kids have been going to camp for a few summers now and I am quite brave about it all, no more dramatic crying scenes at the bus. Truthfully, I feel pure unadulterated joy and I skip away from the bus station thinking no laundry, no cooking, no fighting, no one to wake up in the morning for two whole weeks. I am a pro at sending kids off to camp.
But now my older son is going off to Yeshiva in Baltimore next year. He is ready and intellectually my husband and I are ready for him to take this important step towards independence. But, I find myself tearing up at the thought of him leaving. He is good-naturedly enduring my extra long hugs and my lectures on the importance of changing your underwear every day.
To keep the sadness at bay I try repeating this mantra to myself: One less load of laundry, one less kid to get up and out in the morning, one less person for his siblings to fight with, one less kid to complain about dinner. But it is not working.
My husband plans on bringing lots of tissues for the drive to Baltimore, because he has a feeling there will be a whole lot of heaving, sobbing, and crying. I think we should bring band aids so I can cover the hole over my heart where I will once again feel it being ripped out of my chest, this time to be left at Yeshiva.