Parent Moments: Off to Camp
Brittany was running around her bedroom, tossing T-shirts and bathing suits haphazardly towards her open suitcase on the floor. She was grinning from ear to ear as she packed for summer camp, with the kind of enthusiasm only a 13-year-old could generate.
"This is going to be so great!" Brittany exclaimed as she whirled around the room, grabbing sunglasses and shorts. "We're going to ride horses and go canoeing in the lake and have campfires every night."
Though it would mark her first trip away from home without her parents, there was no trepidation or hesitancy on her face as she rambled on about all of the activities promised at the one-week adventure camp she would be attending. There was no sign that she was feeling anything close to what I was experiencing -- a slight shortening of breath as I thought about her imminent departure.
It was obvious Brittany was ready, but what wasn't so clear was whether I was willing to let her go. How could my baby survive a whole week without me?
As I packed all the practical items I knew Brittany would need -- sunblock, bug spray, flashlight, shampoo, washcloth -- I realized the things I really wanted to send with her couldn't be folded into a backpack or stored in a plastic bag.
I wanted to pack reminders about eating healthfully and being polite, and about not taking chances and STAYING SAFE.
I wanted to pack my eyes to watch over her while she was gone, my voice to whisper precautions in her ear, and my hands to gently apply the sunblock she shuns. I wanted to pack my all of my love and protection to keep her cocooned in safety and warmth until I saw her again.
I know my 13-year-old is convinced she knows everything now. She reminds her father and me often that she is "practically a grown-up." She doesn't really think she needs Mom, as she used to when she was younger.
But I know better.
Her eyes may be a bit more knowing now that she's a teenager, her cheekbones a bit more prominent, but I can still see the chubby cheeks and bubbly eyes of the toddler hidden underneath.
Her now-lightly-mascaraed lashes leave new shadows on her still-freckled cheeks. I know the rest of the world sees a maturing young woman, and sometimes I even see a glimpse of her myself, but mostly I see a little girl who still needs me as much as ever.
I tried to explain my feelings to Brittany as we finished her packing, but in typical teen fashion, she dismissed my worries and fears with a long declaration of "Mooom, I'll be fine. Don't worry. I can take care of myself," while rolling her eyes.
But I can't help but worry. That's part of my job as her mom.
A few days later, just before Brittany boarded the bus to take her to camp, she turned her face toward mine. I heard a confident teen racing towards independence as she gently said, "Mom, don't worry. I'll remember everything you taught me and I'll be fine, because you're a great mom."
My heart swelled with pride, and the tightness in my chest loosened as I smiled through my tears and said goodbye. Maybe I, too, was ready, after all.