Last year at this time, I was a total wreck. I was sending my nine year-old off to sleepaway camp on the other side of the country, where she didn’t know a soul. Granted, I had gone to camp there and I knew the owners and their (now grown) children.
But it was so far away, and she was so young, and seven weeks was SUCH a long time for her to be gone. The self-doubt was overwhelming, and the rationalizations I’d come up with were no longer all that convincing. Was it really that important that she get out of LA for a while? Was it really that crucial for her to be independent? Did it really matter if she made friends who lived in another part of the country?
I had trouble sleeping, I cried a lot, and I got super defensive whenever anyone gasped when I told them about my daughter’s summer plans. But, oh, how things change. This year, sending her off to camp is a whole different ball of wax. She loved it last summer, just like I knew she would, and she’s been counting the days until camp starts again since almost the day she got home last August.
She’s been Skyping with her camp friends all year, and I even took her back to Pennsylvania in January for a bunk reunion/sleepover. At camp, she had to do chores like sweeping the floor and cleaning the toilet, she had to make choices about what to eat, and she had to send her clothes to the laundry and then fold them and put them away when they came back each week. At home, she was more mature, more responsible, and more willing to help out without complaining.
This year, I’m still sad that she’s leaving me for seven weeks, but knowing that she’s going back to good friends and a place that feels like home to her makes it so much easier. When people gasp that she goes away to camp for the whole summer, I don’t feel the need to defend that choice anymore. My stock answer is that sending her to camp is the most unselfish thing I’ve ever done in my life. And it really is. Sure, I’d love to have her home with me. But I know that for her, going away is so much better, just as it was for me when I was her age. And besides, with my son home without her, I get the gift of seven weeks without having to listen to them fight.
Last year, when I got my daughter on the bus and watched her drive away, I sobbed for hours after she left. But you know something? This year, I don’t think I will.