It’s sad but true, I was reading through the Parent Handbook for my daughter’s Girl Scout camp and I got all teary. She is my baby, my sweet little 8 year old girl who is so excited and so nervous about going away to camp. I could not believe how sad I got just reading the handbook, what silliness, I thought to myself. She had a rough time at her first Girl Scout camp out a month ago and is worried she will be embarrassed and picked on if other girls see she is sad. It is sad to say that this is a real concern. Girls can be so mean to each other, which horrifies me, but that is a post for another day.
As parents, one of the hardest things we do is to watch our children grow up and leave us. I personally was one of those kids who happily went away to camp at age 8 with no tears. I went away to Peru at 14 with no fear (my mother said she sat in the car sobbing after I left.) The only time I got nervous was being dropped off at college, that seemed so permanent and my mom and I clung to each other for a while. It wasn’t until I was an adult that my mom shared with me how hard it had been for her to let me go and how she struggled to hide her own fear and send me on my merry way with love and confidence in my ability to take care of myself.
Yet, our children have to grow up and grow away from us. I want to raise strong, independent children, just like my mother raised me. My son is so excited about sleep away camp, he can hardly stand it and talks about all the amazing things he gets to do at Camp Langston this summer: ride ATVs and jet skis, horseback riding, archery, swimming, etc. The camp acreage is full of wild life, exotic deer and amazing fun he doesn’t even know to expect. He and his best friend are going together and I know they will have fun.
I know my little one will have fun, too, at Camp Bette Perot. She is going with 3 friends from Brownies and is thrilled to experience horseback riding for the first time. Night time might be a challenge, but her days will be full of fun, silliness and excitement! But how can I convince her that it is worth it? How can I calm her fears? What can I send with her to remind her that we love her?
This is a mother’s challenge: to conquer our own fears, to send our children out into the world, to trust that we have raised them to know right from wrong and how to protect themselves from whatever may come. This is no easy task for any of us. Part of me is so excited to have a week alone with my husband and the other part is wondering how I will bear their absence.
I encourage other moms who are sending their children away to camp for the first time this year to share their fears here, but be strong for your children. Send them off, like I will, with love and confidence. They will survive and so will you. They need you to tell them you love them and not show your fear. Remember that they feed off of your emotions and will take their cue from you. Be happy, don’t worry – in the words of Bobby McFerrin and Bob Marley.