Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Summer camp

Sunburst left today for her first day of summer camp.

We signed her up months ago, and she has been anticipating this day with great excitement. Since she has been homeschooled, this kind of "away from home" thing isn't something she's had much experience with. I wasn't sure how she'd do, but she has been widely enthusiastic, especially with the knowledge that her best homeschooling pal would be attending camp with her. So today we packed up what she needed and dropped her off at the specified time. The woman that signed her in had the biggest grin I've seen in years-- just the epitome of cheerfulness. I took it as a sign of the good times to come.

Just as I was leaving, they shuffled Sunburst into a different group than her pal. Apparently they were dividing the kids up by grade, something rather arbitrary when it comes to homeschoolers. Sunburst is now considered a 3rd grader, while her pal is technically in 2nd grade. This would never do! Sunburst shot me a look of complete horror. Her eyes got wide and shiny as the bottom fell out of her world. And I got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Welcome to Summer Camp!

In the end, it all worked out. Sunburst and NightOwl got to be together, with a heaping thanks to Aleisha's unwaivering people skills. (Always pick her for your team; she's very good at this sort of thing.) Sunburst was pulled out of the older group and happily joined the younger one.-- But that pit in my stomach didn't go away. It just deepened as I went on with my day. I couldn't stop worrying about Sunburst. Thinking about that look on her face. Missing her.

I missed her terribly. And she was gone for all of three hours.

It's a day camp. We'll get up and do it all again, every day for the next two weeks. And I'll probably miss her again tomorrow. And the next day, and so forth and so on. What's wrong with me? It's not like she hasn't been away from us before, right? Right? oh... well, I guess she hasn't really. Just five times in 8 years. Two medical emergencies, two sitters, and one homeschool activity. Is that really it? Have I taken this Attachment Parenting schtick too far?

We've pretty much been on our own since we became parents. When Sunburst was born we lived twelve hours away from our closest family members. Since then we have moved ever farther away, playing follow the job. I can see how things might have been different had we raised our kids closer to home where grandmas and aunts and uncles abound. But our life circumstances have led us into a world of strangers. It seems that just when we got to know people well enough to entrust our kids to them, it was time to move again.

But really though, there's this part of me that's completely confounded by the idea that we're supposed to be okay with leaving our kids anyway. I'm not ashamed to admit it. I'm confounded. I just don't get how we're supposed to be okay with it.

I mean, we grow these little people up, out of practically thin air, for nine to ten months inside of us. They are so completely a part of us that when we push them out into the bright world they are still attached. They are helpless and smelly, and we are just as wrapped around them as we ever were. Coddling and nursing and catering to their every whim. Snuggling and gurgling and loving. We're designed, from the moment of conception, to shelter them, protect them, nurture them. And not just for weeks, but for years and years... and then one day we're just supposed to watch them walk out the door and be okay with that?

On what planet does this even make sense? There seems to be a great design flaw here. Sure, this is a multi-species experience. I get that biologically it needs to happen, that's it's all part of the process. But emotionally? It's some kind of sick game along the lines of "if you love it, let it go..."

That's crap. I don't want to let my kids go. I don't want to entrust them to the care of complete strangers. Even if they push my buttons some of the time. Even if sometimes it's hard to get through the day without pulling my hair out. I love them. I enjoy them. And it hardly ever occurs to me that being without them is an option. It's not a conscious thought, my brain just doesn't go there. By becoming a mom, this is the deal I signed up for. It's as hard for me to separate myself from them physically as it would be to try to separate my heart from theirs. It's too late for all that. We're intertwined, the kids and I.

But you already knew that. We're homeschoolers, afterall. As for those people who aren't, and watch their kids head off every day for school, how on earth do they do it? They must have nerves of steel!

Sunburst left today for summer camp. She had a grand time, learned a few dances, and played a bunch of games. She's revved up to go again tomorrow and every day hereafter for the next two weeks. She's leaving. She's excited. I'm excited for her. Really. But gnawing there at the back of my mind is the thought that someday it won't be summer camp, and she'll be leaving for good.


  1. gulp.wail.

    we just have to hope they like extended family living!!!

  2. I know exactly how you feel. I had to laugh though when you said is was just daycamp! It still feels like ones heart is being torn out though, doesn't it. I bet your daughter is having lots of fun!

  3. Have you read Donna Simmons post about visiting colleges? She talks about how our culture seems to have it all backwards -- people are content to leave their little ones with others (babysitters, daycares, schools) but then have tremendous separation anxiety when the kids are all grown up and headed off to college. Odd, isn't it.

    As for me, I must run now to pick up my 11yo from her day camp.

  4. I feel exactly the same as you.

  5. At some point they leave???


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