Farewell, Camp Worry

by Kristin on July 6, 2010

in Love, family & community

Photo by Max Wolfe

As we drove to Q’s camp to drop her off, I had no reason to worry. From this completely objective mom’s point of view (ah-hem), she is friendly, funny, kind and beautiful. She makes friends easily, loves organized activities, and is naturally go-with-the-flow.

And Q loves camp—LOVES it. Just like I did when I was growing up. I loved everything about it, so when Q talks about her love for camp, it’s so vivid I can taste it, like some sweet flashback popsicle flavor from my past.

Hello, teen years (I wasn’t quite ready for you)

Waiting in line for registration to begin, however, a small cloud of worry began to gather over me. This was the first year Q wasn’t bringing a friend along, and the first time she didn’t seem to know anyone from past years. It was also her first year at camp with an older group of kids. For three years she had gone to the session for kids entering fourth through sixth grades; now she was in the seventh through ninth grade realm. Some of the kids looked so old!

I glanced at Q, with her still-little-girl body, her never-shaved legs, the shy demeanor she wore over it all. I tried to remember what it was like to be that age, surrounded by so many kids at so many different stages of development. Was being flat-chested an embarrassment at the pool? In the showers? Would she feel like a little girl in a big girls’ world? Would all her natural Q-ster mojo dissolve into thin air?

Worse yet, would the older kids wield their hormonal powers to shift the entire focus of the camp, away from duct-tape crafts and silly songs and games to ogling at cute boys, working on their tans and looking appropriately glum? (OK, I realize this makes me sound like a grumpy old woman, but there’s nothing that bothers me more about teens than the “it’s-cool-to-be-glum” attitude. Is it just me, or is it worse with teens today than ever?)

Camp is really a learning experience for the parents

After getting Q settled in her cabin, and finding little there to comfort me, other than a couple of girls who looked like they could be nice, it was time to say goodbye. And while it can be a really tough thing for a parent to do, I’m going to suggest it’s the most important moment of all—the moment when there’s nothing left to do but boil it all down to the essence of the matter. Say goodbye. Say, “I love you so much, have a great time, I’ll see you at the end of the week!” And then, as you’re driving away, say firmly to yourself, I can’t text her, hear her voice on the phone, or wait for an email from her. I can just think about her, and write a couple of letters. That will have to be enough.

We like to talk about sleep-away camp as healthy experiences for our kids. They need to learn to get by and solve problems without us. They need to practice advocating for themselves, speaking up, choosing their battles, and making smart choices about friends and activities. It’s true—these life lessons are certainly important, and they’re certainly a part of the camp experience. But in most cases, it’s the parents who need to practice the letting go.

Packing up my worries

Of course, I didn’t do such a great job letting go of my worry. In fact, I found ways to embellish it, conjuring up new worst-case scenarios in my mind. In the end, it was like I spent a week at Camp Worry while my 12-year-old was off having a wonderful time at Camp Fun.

Because she did, of course, have a wonderful time. Yesterday, as we spent the day together, stories and songs from her week kept bubbling to the surface. She is clearly easing toward her teen years with grace and all the necessary skills. Maybe it’s time I set aside my worries and join her in the fun.

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  • molly

    Oh, Kristin. You just put into words worries that I am already worrying — and my big girl is only about the age (if I remember correctly) that Q was at our wedding. I know you are a great mom, it clearly comes through in her ability to age gracefully (as you note). I hope I can do the same for my babies. xo

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com Kristin T.

    Molly, thanks for your sweet reassurance. I think, as moms, we tend to project so much of our own experience with adolescence on our girls. Sure, it helps us be empathic, but who’s to say we remember it accurately? Plus, times have changed a lot (for better and worse), and our girls are not mini duplicates of us. We need to remember all of that, to gain some better perspective.