A piece of my heart is six hours away in a lovely campsite, enjoying a week of winter camp. On Monday I exchanged one part of my heart for another – I picked up my son and dropped off my daughter.
Over the week my big almost ten year old was in camp, I scanned every photo that was uploaded to the camp Facebook page, trying to get some information of how he was doing.
He’s smiling, he must be having a good time.
He’s huddled in his coat, oh he must be so cold, I should have sent warmer clothes.
They’re on a hike, I forgot to send him a cap, oh no! I hope he doesn’t get a sunburn.
I hope he remembered to put on sunscreen.
Good, he’s wearing a different shirt than yesterday. I hope he put the other one in the laundry bag, so it comes back home.with him.
They posted a video – a video!! I can get more than a one second glimpse!
He’s standing on his bench, singing along with the other kids. One second, two seconds. He sits down.
Why did he sit down? Maybe he’s homesick? Maybe his foot hurts? Maybe his new sneakers are bothering him?
Oh, he’s back standing.
I guess he just wanted to sit down!
And so the week goes on, until he can call. He calls! My heart feels closer to complete for a moment. But. I have a million questions!
Are you too hot with your coat?
Is it too cold, should we have gotten warmer clothes?
Are you homesick? Are the kids nice to you? Is your counselor nice?
Are your shoes comfortable? Did you take a shower? Are you happy? Are you sad?
But I prepared myself; I knew he’d have a short time to talk, and the worst feeling is hanging up and realizing I didn’t give my kid a chance to talk.
And so he called. And I quieted all my screaming questions and said, “So, what do you want to tell me about?”
And off he went, telling me about every and any activity, answering none of my unasked questions. So I listened, trying to read between the lines.
He sounds happy.
He’s not crying.
He has a lot to tell me.
And I have to accept that I will not get the answers to all my questions. Even though I’m his mother and I should know everything!
And the week passes, we pick up my big boy and drop off my big (but looks little to me) 8 year old girl for the greatest week yet. She meets her friends, some of whom she has only seen in online school over the computer. First she’s shy. They’re so excited to see her, she’s not really reciprocating.
Then I realize the problem; I need to leave. I can’t hang around. As long as I’m there, she won’t loosen up. So I casually disappear in the crowd, and watch her running across the camp grounds with her friends and a big chunk of my heart.
And I practice the speech I know so well by now.
She’ll be ok. She has her friends with her. There’s good staff. I trust the directors. She wanted to go to camp. She begged to go to camp. She wants to be here.
And we leave. She waves. I try to be the grown up; I wave and casually get in the car. As if I’m as fine with it as she is.
And I wait to see pictures.
She’s in lots of them. She’s smiling. waving. Cheering with her bunk. Working on a scrapbook. She’s sitting between two friends.
Oh no, she’s sitting in a different row than her friends. Maybe they got into a fight? Maybe she’s upset? Maybe they’re upset with her?
And a little voice of sanity reminds me – maybe she just wants to sit there!
And then the pictures of day two. I don’t know how she slept. What if she cried herself to sleep? Was she homesick? Maybe still is homesick?
Again I scan the pictures, looking for answers. Are her eyes red and puffy? No, she’s smiling. Hmm, is it a regular smile or a homesick smile?
I’m slowly making myself crazy!
I show my husband the photos.
“Great, she’s having a good time!” That’s it.
“You think it’s a real smile? Do her eyes look red? You think she cried last night?”
He shrugs, “Maybe, but that’s ok too.”
And for a moment I wish I was the father, not the mother; life is so simple!
But I know he’s right. It IS ok. It’s ok if she gets homesick or doesn’t sit near her friends. Even if she chooses not to participate in an activity. She needs to experience all that. It’s part of growing up.
She’ll call tomorrow. And I’m going to put my million unnecessary questions aside and listen to her talk. And I hope she won’t cry, because I’m not convinced I won’t join her if she does.
After all, I miss having my heart complete.