Friday, June 30, 2017

Sleepaway Camp!

When my daughter was 9 weeks old I took her on a flight back to New York alone. The night before I was so panicked because I felt that this trip was the most monumental journey of my lifetime. To date it turned out to be the easiest flight I have taken since becoming a parent. 

In New York my parents, along with many of their friends were welcoming the baby. My best friend's mother pulled me aside to congratulate me and then shared some advice. She said that my job as a mother was to let her go. In that moment, I politely said thank you, even though she could see the look on my face was disbelief. Sure, later down the line when my baby becomes an adult one day, I would have to learn to back off, but this little girl was just inside me a few weeks prior. Too soon? YES!

Her words have been stored away in my mind though all these years. Occasionally, I am reminded I need to take a step back, but not until this week have her words really rung true. My almost nine-year-old left for sleep away camp earlier this week. This was something she has been talking about all year long. It is five days and four nights, not long in comparison to seven week camps, but for us, it is enough. She has had a sleepover at someones house here and there, but she had never been away from home this long. She went with a friend and they were both so excited to do this together. For a child who has had separation anxiety here and there, I wondered if it would rear its head. I have learned where the triggers are for her. If she feels safe, knows people, and knows the environment, then she is fine. With camp, we checked all these boxes ahead of time. She went on a father/daughter weekend a few months before at the same camp, so she knew some of what to expect.

Monday morning on the way to the camp, she began to worry a bit. She said she wasn't sure if she was afraid of going to camp, or afraid to say goodbye to us. It was a bit daunting to her to have to say goodbye for five days, and she was worried she might cry. I assured her that she wouldn't be the only one if she did. We had talked many times before about breaking it down one step at a time, and not looking at it as being away for the whole week, but rather one fun activity at a time. In the car ride there, she played out some worst case scenarios about her buddy not being able to get there. I found out her friend had some similar scenarios on the drive there herself. When they saw each other at camp though all was good. They were both excited and the nerves seemed to be lifted. When it was time to say goodbye they were both such troopers. They both jumped into a sea of other girls and joined in an activity without looking back.

The only tears shed that morning were from my son, who got strapped into his car seat and his eyes filled up because he said he was so sad to say goodbye to his sister. My husband and I both are missing her, but we are pretty certain she is having a great time. The only part we are struggling with is that there is zero contact. We have discussed at length why this policy is in place. Some camps post photos online so you can see if you kid is smiling, playing or at the very least, proof of life. This camp doesn't do that, so I have to wait until Friday to lay eyes on her again, and believe you me, after I see her I am going to grab her, and then I will not be letting go for a good long while. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Welcome Summer!

So happy to take a break from the everyday lunch packing, homework checking and early morning racing out the door. Slow mornings in pjs and post-traffic drives to the beach are calling to me. I am ready for summer! I resisted the urge to sign my kids up for more than two weeks of camp over the summer.  Downtime is good for all of us. A little boredom never hurt anyone, and creativity comes alive with empty schedules.

With a few trips planned, a few tickets to museums, outdoor movies, Fourth of July festivities, and a 9th birthday to celebrate, we have plenty to look forward to. The end of third grade and preschool is bittersweet. We had such a great school year, but the end feels so hectic and stuffed full of parties, awards, meetings, evaluations and exams that the finish line is looking pretty sweet.

My two kids together without being over scheduled can mean two things: arguing, whining, crying and tantrums and it can also mean intense bonding, playing together, and the loudest guttural giggles I've ever heard. I have seen my daughter be a bit bossy to her little brother, but I have also seen the most nurturing side of her come out when she spends time alone with him. My son can get frustrated with the lack of language skills he has (and resort to hitting), but I have also heard him tell her that he loves her the most in the family. I will take being slighted, to listen to him confess his love to her. She is very fair in her response when he asks her who her favorite in the family is, she answers that she loves us all the same. He will then tell her again she is his favorite, in hopes that her response will be him next time he asks. He would follow her to the moon if she was willing to take him.

This summer I will again strive to reach the perfect balance of fun things to do and nothing to do each day. It is not easy, but I am up for the task. The alternative of getting out the door to school comes up soon enough at the end of August. I might eat my words when my kids begin to get under my skin, but I will force myself to remember how I feel right this second, excited to be with them without a schedule. Time is moving too quickly for me to not cry at every milestone passing, so even in the most annoying bits of childhood I want to witness theirs. I want to play with them. I want to stay out all day in the pool until our fingers prune. I want to be at the beach when we are too tired to walk back to the car and brush sand off our feet. I want to keep them up too late, and get up late in the morning. I want to take road trips and let them buy Pringles and candy for the car ride. I want to bake cakes with them and eat them too. It might just work this time. In any case it's fun trying.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

You Are Embarrassing Me

Kids seem to be staying young and innocent for far less time. I am not allowed to walk down the street hand and hand, singing a song with my daughter anymore. In fact I can barely hold her hand let alone sing. I am now a mother who is capable of embarrassing my child. How did I get here already?

I have a pretty sensitive daughter and she is at the age where she is aware of how she is being perceived. I think this is normal, I just didn't think cute ponytails, her rainbow leg warmers, or enjoying her brother's company in public would be embarrassing at age 8. I thought we would have a little more time. I really can't believe when I go to kiss her head nightly before I go to sleep that her body is as long as it is. Third grade is big kid stuff, and it appears that every year my kids keep getting bigger, as they should, but I wish it didn't have to feel so fast.

Every cliche starts to hold more and more meaning for me now that I am a mother. I am a sensitive one myself, and the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Transitions are hard for her the way they are hard for me, but this year she adjusted to going off to school better than she ever has. Mostly because she knew who her teacher would be, she knew lots of friends in her class, and because she knew she is old enough that she might feel lonely being the only one crying by the doorway of the class since she would likely be the only one. Peer pressure is no joke.

I do wish she would have less of this self awareness, not just to keep her a little kid longer, but because life is more fun when you care a little less about what others think of you. Today when I dropped her off at school, she saw a friend of hers had broken her leg. She had a hot pink cast with sparkles and was sitting in a stroller. Now this I admit would be hard for any eight year old to pull off, but this kid was able to laugh at herself, so everyone laughed with her. I remember last year hearing a story of two sisters who came to school one day in pajamas thinking it was pajama day. They arrived to school only to see everyone was dressed like any other day. One sister was terribly embarrassed and wanted to go home, and the other laughed when someone asked her why she was in pajamas. She was able to make a joke about how she didn't feel like getting dressed.

Michelle Obama did a special recently on girls living in poverty all around the world. There was a girl who woke up at four in the morning, feeds and bathes her brothers and sisters, and then takes herself to school. Her given name was Janet Jackson, and when asked if she liked to sing, she answered yes and broke out into a song right then and there. She may have more responsibility than most children do, and her reality is anything but easy, but somehow this girl had so much more confidence than I see in girls who have much more. I do wonder where that unabashed joy comes from. Often times I wonder if a simpler life is a happier life. I'm not sure if I chose to go with out texting, social media or watching the news, how successful I would be. There is no doubt I would have a lot more time on my hands. Perhaps, I would be more confident and unabashed if I had no idea what was happening with everyone else around me. It would certainly make an interesting social experiment. I would also certainly miss out on a lot. Or would I?