Last year my son went to his sixth grade camp near Guadalajara. It was only his second time at camp in his life, and he was very nervous about it, but it is a rite of passage at our school, so we signed him up anyway. Gil and I had heard good things about the camp. We were told about the incredibly professional staff, the wide range of activities, and the strong emphasis on team-building with the sixth grade groups that had previously attended the camp. While our son was not 100% certain about going, we decided that this was a case of Dad Knows Best (because I chickened out and made Gil tell him), and packed him up.
When he left on the bus, I felt really guilty for not giving him much of a say in the matter. But I had a feeling that he would have a great time, and would thank us for giving him that extra little push. When the bus arrived back at the school four nights later, he gave me a brief hug and then explained that he would have preferred an additional four nights at LEAST.
He was completely insufferable for several days because he was suddenly completely independent and didn’t need me to tell him what time to go to bed. And that was cute although not completely true, unless you consider 1am an appropriate school night bedtime. But I loved that he felt more mature and self-confident, and I enjoyed the stories of the horseback rides and girl/boy dance. I also really appreciated his newfound ability to separate the clean from the dirty clothes, even though he was much less interested in doing the actual laundry.
So that’s why, when my daughter’s turn rolled up this school year, I didn’t hesitate to register her for her own four nights away from home with her sixth grade class. She, being an organized little person from an early age, packed her own bag and labeled all of her personal items without any reminders. When it was time to get on the bus, she hugged us both several times, but didn’t hesitate to climb on with her seat mate, already giggling about something she would never tell me about.
But what I didn’t count on was what it was like to be left behind with two male humans for an entire weekend. Here are some things that happened because I decided camp would be good for my daughter:
1) No one woke me up on a Saturday morning and asked me what I wanted to do ON MY BIRTHDAY. The Boy Child just went downstairs and got on his Play Station, and didn’t say much to me even when I dropped some major hints about how today was special. Like, extra special. Like, about his favorite parent. He said happy birthday once his dad came and told him that it was his mother’s birthday. Sure, at that point he gave me a hug and they both took me for a lovely breakfast, but, I mean, you can imagine the anti-climax.
2) No one asked if we could make my favorite cookies or watch my favorite show, because the person who knows what those things are was not there. She was probably riding a horse or falling off her bunk bed laughing.
3) No one made voices for our two dogs so that we could make up funny stories for them. When I tried to do it with The Men, they asked me if I felt like lying down. I did, as a matter of fact.
4) No one draped themselves over me while we watched TV. And, as much as I usually find the draping a bit uncomfortable, I really wished someone would have done it anyway. Except The Boy because he’s a foot taller than me and a few kilos heavier.
So today she’s coming back and I can’t wait. Sure, I’m glad that she had this experience. I’ll be happy to hear about how great it was and how tiresome it is to be home. I’ll do her mud-soaked laundry with a grin and a sigh.
And I’ll appreciate her caring, thoughtful presence (including the draping) even more than I did before (and that was quite a lot).