ON SUNDAY we packed up the girls in the Odyssey just after lunch and hit the road. Just under three hours later, we arrived at our destination, a rustic, wooded camp nestled on the west side of Rehoboth Bay. A very short 20 minutes of check-ins and goodbyes later, we were driving back, short a couple pieces of luggage and one very excited and somewhat apprehensive 10-year-old.
And, boy, has it felt weird ever since.
R. has spent time away from us before. There’s the occasional sleep-over, of course, and the overnight at Grandmom and Grandpop’s, and even, for the last couple of summers, the week at Camp Nana and Pop Pop, a six-hour drive north. But this is different. This is sleep-away camp, where the only people she knows are her best friend and a couple of school buddies.
And while previous stints away from home have included countless phone calls and Skype sessions, this week it’s all radio silence.
The writer in me thrills that the only correspondence permitted is written, so we’re sending along plenty of letters and eagerly awaiting each day’s mail.
The father in me misses his girl and wants to know that she’s okay, that she’s having the life-changing time he wants her to have.
This is a big step for R., and one she asked to take. My hope is that a little independence this week goes a long way over the months and years to come.
In September she starts at a new school, an upper-level elementary school that combines all of the district’s 5th and 6th graders. She is, as I was at her age, nervous about leaving her comfort zone, having to deal with new peers, wondering if she’ll be liked, and trying not to listen to the painfully typical rumors about hazing, mean girls, and mystery meat in the lunchroom.
Perhaps a week spent amongst scores of kids she doesn’t know, without the safety net of her home, her parents, and her younger sister to catch her each night, will begin to instill the self-confidence–the self-assuredness of calm and comfort amidst unfamiliar surroundings and people–that I didn’t achieve until well after college.
If so, these six nights of parental angst will have been well worth it.
If not, well, she’ll still have spent several days zip-lining, rock climbing, swimming, canoeing, and hanging with her BFF without a single nagging word from her mother or father. That’s not too bad, is it? | DL