So anyone who is a Facebook friend knows that I was a basket case this past weekend when 7-year-old DQ went away on her first overnight camping trip. It started the evening before, as I was writing a note to leave in her bag to let her know how proud I was of her. In bed later that night, the tears wouldn’t stop flowing. My head hurt the next morning from crying so much. I kept telling myself, “Pull yourself together. You can keep it under control; you can do this.” When we arrived at the bus drop-off, I was feeling good, mainly because DQ was being such a star.
During the week, she’d said she was “scared”, but I could tell it wasn’t borne out of anxiety. It was a simple fear of not knowing what to expect; who isn’t scared of that? I could sense a level of nervous anticipation in her. But she never once said, “I changed my mind; I don’t want to go.” When we first spoke about the possibility in the spring, she said she was interested in trying it, but asked if I could ask some of her friends if they wanted to go, too.
This required careful consideration. You need to select the “right” friends; they have to tolerate each other for 3 whole days together. On the one hand, I did want someone to be able to go with her, just so I would feel better. But secretly, FuBu and I were hoping none of her friends would go, because we knew that they would end up being cling-ons the whole trip, and we wanted DQ to experience camp as a true socialization experience where you would meet a new set of friends. There were really only two friends I seriously considered; one was expected to be away on a family vacation, while the other’s parents were not ready to let their daughter go to overnight camp. I respected and understood that decision. I wasn’t sure I was ready either.
So how extra guilty did I feel when almost every child at the drop-off seemed to have a buddy in tow, and here was my little baby, all alone, climbing aboard that big bus with nobody but her favourite stuffed dog in hand? And yes, that’s when I totally lost it. As soon as she stepped onto the bus, behind the tinted windows, I was a complete train wreck. That uncontrollable sobbing kind of wreck. I felt sorry for anyone who had to see that (luckily, DQ was sitting on the opposite side of the bus). And the more anyone tried to console me, the more out of control I got.
That’s when I realized that being emotional is rarely rational. There was no doubt in my mind that DQ was going to be well cared for and looked after, and I was fully confident that she was going to have an amazing and memorable time. But it’s not about being rational. This is my 7-year-old leaving to be guided by people I’ve never met before, who don’t know her routines, who don’t understand her quirks, who need to make sure she carries her EpiPen everywhere… How could they possibly care for my DQ the way I can?!?!
But alas, apparently, they can. And they can make her happy, too. This was a 2-night/3-day “trial” camp. DQ rated her experience 9.5 out of 10 and she says next time, she’d like to go on the 9-day stay (we haven’t told her yet that it’s actually 11 days). Camp is another one of those experiences I never got to enjoy when I was a kid. To see DQ have this experience at such a young age, to listen to her rave on about it, to marvel at how I’ve already seen such a confidence boost in her now that she’s done this… I beam with pride. And that is one emotion that is quite grounded and rational, I think.