Lessons from Summer Camp: Good-Bye, Love Ya’, Don’t Text Me
This week, Amanda, 16, left for Summer Choir Camp. This is her third summer in a row to head off to camp two hours away from home, for a whole week of intense musical instruction, so it’s nothing new to her. She carefully packed her bags, with no help from me thankyouverymuch, and confidently headed off to a week of total independence.
Her Dad drove her and two of her friends to camp, which is on a State University campus. He helped her haul her bags into her dorm room, and when he walked away, he said he felt a weird sense of foreshadowing of what it might be like two years from now if she goes off to college. I’m certainly not ready for that yet! Wasn’t she a curly-headed little toddler just five minutes ago?
I told her the day before she left that I would appreciate it if she would text me at least once or twice so we would know that she’s still alive. She rolled her eyes and said…
“Mom, don’t worry, I’ll be fine. And, really, don’t text me.”
Ok, fine, Ms. Independence. Whatever.
Amanda’s always been this way. When she was a toddler, she was fiercely independent. “I do it myself, mommy!” she would insist. I hate that she doesn’t think she needs us, but I also love it. She is Confident. Smart. Fearless. Brave. Everything that I am not. And I love that.
Speaking of brave, Amanda signed up for the Talent Show on the first night. She had to audition for a spot in the show, and she made the list. This is very, very impressive. Keep in mind that this is a gathering of a thousand or so of the BEST high school voices in the state of Texas. So WOW. And on the fourth night, when she performed her solo in the show, everyone loved it so much she got a standing ovation. Again, WOW…a standing ovation from a huge room full of singers her age! That’s brave.
You know, I can understand this yearning for independence. I loved my family when I was a teenager, but I couldn’t wait for the day when I went off to college. It was a glorious four years of autonomy, where I was able to discover who I was, apart from being just a daughter. I made a lot of mistakes, but they were my own mistakes, and I learned a lot of hard lessons, too.
The fact that Amanda is eager to walk away from us is a sign of strength, both of our bond, and of her sense of self. As much as I hate to think about it, childhood requires an endpoint, and it’s a parent’s job to raise children who are secure enough to walk away from the safety of home with confidence. It occurred to me this week that Summer Camp is like Practice. It’s practicing being away from home. Practicing going to college. Practicing taking care of yourself. Practicing following a schedule. And practicing living apart from your parents.
Summer camp is good for kids. Even though we miss her terribly (the house is eerily quiet because Emily doesn’t have anyone to argue with) we are certain she didn’t even give us a second thought. There was too much to do, a schedule to follow, and friends to stay up with all night. But that’s okay. I’m glad that she is learning not to need us so much. But she knows we’ll always be there when she does.
There are so many things we parents wish we could do for our children. But no matter hard we try, there are some things we cannot do for them. We cannot make our children happy. We cannot micro-manage their friendships. We cannot plan out their lives. We cannot shield them from all the bad in world. We cannot keep them perfectly safe, but we can certainly drive them crazy trying! Despite my nonstop worrying, I have to relax my Kung-Fu grip and free them to explore uncharted territories. And pray for them, a LOT! And hope they make the right decisions.
Summer Camp made me think about the future and the incredible women my daughters will become someday. But for today, my girls are still teenagers. They are still children, and they still need me, even though Amanda likes to pretend like she does not. I still have time to drive them totally crazy, and maybe even teach them a thing or two along the way! Wait…did I just get a text…?