So my son Jacob, age 9, has now been at sleep away camp for a full week, and I have been on an emotional roller coaster. On the one hand, yippee!!! It has been fun, kind of exciting, to be able to go out in the evening (or stay home) without a ticking clock. We’ve stayed up late, watched movies, had dinner out with friends without even a downward glance at a wristwatch. And mornings have been lovely. I’ve never been a morning person, and motherhood did not change that. It changed my habits, but not my nature. Waking up in the quiet (as opposed to being shaken awake to hear the news of last night’s Red Sox scores) has been a bit of a vacation. And one more thing: this newfound space in my head has been very good for my work. I’m writing like a demon, and I feel like I have my book in my grasp. A fantastic feeling, and one I haven’t felt in a very long time. I’m holding the whole thing in my head. I can’t hold my child in my head and my book in my head at the same time, so my brain is usually in a state of whiplash. Child, book. Book, child. But knowing that he’s at camp, that he’s having the time of his life on someone else’s watch, has made my brain settle down, like sediment floating to the bottom of a clear glass of water. Book, book, book.
But…and you knew there was a but coming by the title of this post…it’s a bittersweet feeling. I suppose this is what motherhood is: an endless series of leave-takings, of two people learning to let go. From the moment he left my body, he has been letting go and I have been letting go. First, weaning him. Then, leaving him with a babysitter for the very first time. Pre-school. Kindergarten. Sleep-overs. And now, two weeks where he is on his own. Is he brushing his teeth? Showering? Is he as happy as he sounds on the phone? Have I taught him well enough to make his way in the world of sleep away camp without his parents hovering?
We’ll see in a little while. We’re going to visit him today, half-way through his two weeks. We’ll bring candy (upon pain of death), we’ll see what he’s been working on in this creative arts camp, we’ll have lunch with him–and then we’ll hug good bye. Michael and I will drive away, back down the dirt road. We’ll be happy and sad. Excited for him, nostalgic, but with a twinge of unease. Keep him safe, I will think to no one in particular. Have fun, take care, be well.
When I get back home, I will stand in the doorway of his empty (neat, clean) room. I’ll take a deep breath, wipe the tears from my eyes, and then I’ll walk through our quiet house, both relishing the quiet and longing for the sound of small feet running.