This will be the third summer that our kids have ventured off together, to go to sleep away camp. Great experience all around. I highly recommend it.
The first summer that our oldest went to camp she was 8. Summer between 2nd and 3rd grade. No surprises there that they all chose the same summer (at 8) to be their first. God forbid one of their siblings had one up on them for the rest of their lives.
When Jessica took off for 8 weeks it was strange. As if there was a hole in our lives. Emily and Josh who were 6 and 3 were still home. I felt compelled to let people know that our oldest was gone and that we were really a family of 5. Visiting day camp and we all trekked up to camp. Josh and Em were in tears leaving Jessica behind. It was really touching. Jessica certainly missed us but she was spreading her wings and enjoying the experience head on.
The next year wasn’t as weird but two years later, it was Emily’s turn. They both got on the bus and suddenly there was one kid at home. It was nice being able to spend so much time one on one with the youngest of the brood considering the third generally has to yell louder to get their fair share. When we went to visiting day Emily’s first year, Josh sobbed when we left. He was the only one mind you. He told us that Visiting Day was just so sad. The girls missed him but were having a great time.
Years move quickly when the kids are young. The first year the kids all went to camp for 8 weeks, it was like a new found world. Fred and I were returning to our youth. Out every night. Movies, theater, dinner, friends we never get to see, people at our beach house. All good.
The second year was a bit different. We realized that as much as we liked returning to our youth, we chose to spend most of the time by ourselves. It was a wonderful way to download and just reconnect. The kids, well they couldn’t be happier.
This is the third year that they have all gone to camp together. What is interesting is how the house seems more vacant than ever. Somehow the bigger they get, the more space they take up. I miss the conversations, their opinions, their interests, their tastes. Regardless, I’d never stop letting them go off for 8 weeks or 6 months or to college for that matter. Maybe the separation gives everyone time to pause and realize how much we feed off each other. Perhaps it won’t always be like that but for now, as the kids (except for Josh) are teenagers, it is challenging, mysterious, pleasantly surprising and sometimes incredibly difficult but at the end of the day, it is fun to experience each of them in their own unique way. Bottom line, it was wonderful watching them grow up and become their own person.
Next year, it appears that no one is going back to camp. It doesn’t mean they will be hanging with me all summer, it just means new experiences for all of us.