How many of you out there have agonized over whether to send your child to camp or not? Guess what….you are not alone. We lived in China for almost five years and during that time, our youngest daughter Amanda was at a very sensitive age. On our summer visits back home, we decided that possibly our daughter was losing her American heritage. We did some debating and decided she needed to experience camp. We wanted her to ‘know’ what American kids were like. What they did for fun. How they interacted. We wanted her to have American friends!
She didn’t want to go. Amanda was a shy kid. She was happy just being with us. But I knew she needed more than just us. I was adamant. Mama knows best, and to camp she would go.
I’ll admit that the first time we sent her, it was torture. She was about eight years old and after signing her in, I did my best to help her pick ‘a good bunk’, then helped her get it ready with her sleeping bag, soft blankie and even tucked her teddy bear Maggie into it before Ben pushed me out the door. I didn’t want to leave her. What if no one talked to her? What if she was scared at night? What if she got eaten by a bear? I cried all the way back to the hotel and this is a true story–the next day we parked on a bridge near the camp and used binoculars to try to see Amanda. Sigh.
She made it through camp and seemed to have a good time. I remember one summer she met a girl she called Becca, and that was her new friend who made her laugh and helped her get through her homesickness.
Last week she and I made the road trip to take her to move-in day at college. On the way, we talked about summer camp and she admitted to me that at first, she cried every night when she’d read the email I or her Daddy had sent her. It broke my heart when she told me there were nights she cried herself to sleep. *sob* But she also said she appreciated that we were strong and made her stick it out, because some of her best childhood memories were from camp in America! (mingled in with her Asian memories, of course)
So on move in day, I got all those same drop-off feelings I had years ago when Amanda was a little girl and I was leaving her at camp. In the dorm room, I helped her make her new bed. Instead of Maggie, my gesture of comfort to her this time was an expensive mattress topper covered in bamboo, a barrier between her and the mattress that hundreds of others have slept on. We worked around the room and I held the sign that I’d gotten her, a plaque with ‘our song’ on it, the song I sang to her literally thousands of times to rock her to sleep…. ‘You are my Sunshine, my only Sunshine’……. her dad took it from me and hung it on the wall, where Amanda can look up at it from her desk and know her Mama loves her.
I lovingly helped her hang her clothes, making sure to straighten every wrinkle I could find. I told her a few hundred times to hang up her wet towels, drink plenty of water, and be sure to eat regular meals.
Finally it was time to go. I hugged her close and through the lump in my throat, told her I am proud of her and I love her. Then once again, Ben led me away as I fought back tears.
This time leaving her was almost or possibly even harder than leaving her at camp. This time she was taking her first steps into adulthood. This time there’d be no counselors or lights out curfews to protect her. I left the campus a terrified mom.
But one thing I forgot to mention.
That buddy she made in camp….the girl named Becca. They became best friends. Best friends for life, as they say. The relationship discovered through their childhood camp has only strengthened and together they have vacationed in several beaches in South Carolina, Key West, Mexico, and even the Bahamas. And though leaving Amanda at camp was hard, and leaving her at college was harder, at least I know that as she traverses these next steps as a big girl, Becca will be by her side.
Becca and Amanda are attending the same college. See how camp worked out? Sometimes Mama does know best. And if anyone wants to know what to get me for Christmas, I think a new set of binoculars would be fitting.
Trackback from your site.