It's official: my eight-year-old is going to overnight camp this summer.
He was originally put on a waitlist, but yesterday we got the good news.
Cue the tears!
While I'm happy he'll get to spread his wings, experience independence and have fun with his friends, this is a big deal for me. I'll miss him and I'm afraid I won't know how to let go. I will worry about him constantly. Is he eating well? Is he wearing sunscreen? Is he homesick? Is he crying?
He's been on a few sleepovers at friend's houses and his grandparent's so far, but nothing more than a night. How will he last five nights away in a foreign place? Other kids are leaving for a month for their first time, so I suppose five nights should be easier. On the other hand, I've heard the first few nights are actually the hardest, and once they get past the first week of homesickness kids end up having a great time.
I'll be picking up my son just as he's starting to enjoy being there. He'll be away experiencing the most sickening aspects of homesickness.
I went away for sleepover camp when I was going into grade four and I don't remember enjoying a minute of it. I was so homesick that I actually hung out with my younger brother at camp. When I wasn't with him, I was faking sick in the nurse's office.
Now I'm sending my child away. I know parents look forward to this all year -- especially when they can send all their kids to overnight camp for the summer. Finally, they get a few weeks of peace and quiet while their kids have the time of their lives, too.
But I'm not sure I'll be able to enjoy a minute of time while my son is away. I'll be home with my other son, who will, no doubt, be lonely without his brother. We'll be wondering what's going on at camp and calling the camp office constantly to find out if everything is OK.
There is no way I'll be able to drop him off at the bus stop without balling. My mom told me to prepare my son in advance for my tears. "Explain to him that not all tears are sad tears," she advised. "Tell him you're happy and proud of him, but that sometimes parents are emotional and that these are excited tears because you're so happy for him."
I am excited, obviously, but there are a million other feelings in the mix as well.
I read in a parenting magazine that it's important not to share any feelings of anxiety with your child. You're supposed to tell them you have the utmost confidence they will have fun and enjoy themselves. This will let them know that no matter what happens -- if there's a kid they don't like, if they are homesick -- they will have the confidence to persevere.
I'm not sure my child knows what persevere means, never mind have the skills to overcome these sorts of obstacles his first time away. Should I prepare him for these potential scenarios in advance? Or will this translate into anxiety? Perhaps I should say nothing -- just buy everything on the camp packing list and send him off. Yes -- maybe I should say nothing except how much fun he'll have.
One thing is for sure: I'll have to take an acting class if I'm going to be successful in my mission to act excited as overnight camp nears. I am excited, obviously, but there are a million other feelings in the mix as well. Happiness, fear, pride, anxiety.
It's a good thing I'm going through the motions now because I've only got a few more weeks to prepare myself for the inevitable: my kids are growing up.
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