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I’ve been waiting for this summer for years: the summer when I could pack my kids off to camp for weeks and reclaim my old pre-mom life. Because as awesome as being a mom can be, it’s also filled with logistics and bickering and stuff I really wanted a break from.
The kids went to sleepaway camp for a week last year, but that didn’t have a huge impact. My husband takes them to Florida twice a year to see his parents, so my psyche is used to having five or six kid-free days at a time. And yes, I know a lot of parents would kill for that kind of a break, but I was craving more.
After their week away last year the kids begged to go for longer, so we all settled on a six-week session. We’re past the half-way mark now, and what I’ve learned is that while I’m definitely getting an awesome break, out-of-sight is not out-of-mind.
My favorite part of the day is scanning through the camp pictures and seeing what my kids are up to. The surprising thing is that even though I’m glad they’re gone and that I’m getting a mental rest, I’m still dying to know what they’re up to. Even when they’re not in the pictures, I can still see what the campers have available to them. Whenever I see how many activities are available, I know the kids are having experiences they would never otherwise have. They’re lucky.
Seeing the determination on Fiona’s face when she was throwing a ball, and hugging her friends after a win, or how excited Jake was as he slapped the buzzer during a quiz show game, and playing drums with his band. Those are the moments that make me smile, and I look at them over and over again, and my heart swells up knowing that they’re having fun and doing just fine. And their letters have been filled with achievements and great news about camp happenings and not much talk at all of missing us or coming home.
But it’s not all reassuring pictures and happy letters. Generally our camp discourages phone calls, but we arranged to talk to the kids on Jake’s birthday. Yup, that’s right, I didn’t get to see my son on his eleventh birthday. That was hard, but we knew from the beginning that would happen, and Jake had been sure he’d be fine having his birthday at camp. They do what they can to make it a really big deal.
But still, it’s not the same.
I almost missed the call because of some travel troubles, but it all worked out and I got to talk to each kid for about five minutes. They had just talked to my husband (he was back in Brooklyn) and I could tell Jake was a bit choked up – his answers tended to be one or two words, and I could hear his voice wavering a bit. That was hard to hear. His letters have been so enthusiastic, lots of caps yelling about how awesome camp is. But during that conversation I could see why the camp discourages talking to parents. Old fashioned letters don’t bring the sounds of home right back to you.
But, he had gotten the gifts we’d sent, and had cake with his cabin. Sounds like he’d had a great day – up until our calls. :-)
Talking to Fiona was heartbreaking though. She sounded a little down, and told me that she had thrown up the day before and spent the night in the infirmary. I’m sure they deal with this kind of thing all the time, but I don’t care who you are: when you’re sick, you want your mommy. I felt terrible that I hadn’t been there for her, but what can you do? These things happen.
And I’ll admit it: there was a small part of me that was relieved that I’d dodged taking care of a barfy kid.
I know she was down because she wasn’t feeling well, but I’d wanted so much to hear my bubbly daughter’s squeaky voice, and I didn’t get my fix.
Hundreds of people in Miami International Airport got to see me wipe my eyes and get myself together after the call. And no matter what, it was great to hear their voices, even if they didn’t sound like themselves. So, with letters and pictures to reassure me that they really were having a great time, I shook off the call.
Now I’m in a weird place. In three days I get to see them on visiting day, and twelve days later they’ll be home. At the same time that I can’t wait to hug them, it’s hitting me that my time alone is almost over. And I have my fingers crossed they want to go next year, because despite a few misgivings the break really has been awesome. And while I would probably push them to go back no matter what, I know my husband wouldn’t, if the kids weren’t 100% enthusiastic. That’s a battle I probably wouldn’t win.
It’s tougher than some of us make it look, sending our kids off to camp. But it’s also wonderful. I can’t wait until it’s over, and I can’t wait until it happens again.
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