“Good parents give their children Roots and Wings.” –Jonas Salk
I am back from the woods. After a night of sleeping like a dead woman (I don’t think I moved a centimeter all night or even closed my mouth-it felt like the Sahara this morning) and the world’s hottest shower, I have completed re-entry.
As I mentioned the other day, I was away for a brief time on school-sponsored trip for my daughter. Two-hundred seventh graders are up at a camp this week learning about science, team-building, community, independence and nature. And in the process, having a total ball. My daughter is there all week-I just chaperoned for one night, but it was two very, very, very full days. I stress “very”.
Our ride up to the camp was glorious. Beautiful October day in New England. And being as we traveled an hour and a half North, autumn’s splendor had already hit our destination and was in full-tilt boogie. Golden leaves were fluttering down on my car (I followed the busses), orange maples stood fiery and triumphant on the front lawns of white-shingled, black-shuttered old homes. Ornate, wrought-iron fences and white picket fences rose out of the leaf piles. Fall has arrived. And the best part is that since it hasn’t hit my part of the state yet, I get to experience it longer. That would be something…following the seasons at their peak to make them last longer….but I digress.
From the moment the kids arrived at camp, it has been total action (and I speak in the present tense because a faculty member sends updates to the parents each day). There is a well-constructed schedule and everyone is following it, which is quite the feat, given that getting this many tweens in order is sometimes like herding cats. You are on the move from waking time (around 6:30 a.m.) to the last activity which wraps at about 9:15 p.m. Most of the day you are outside, rain or shine, which a great contrast to the usual school week. We had shine on Monday and rain on Tuesday. Lots of it. Raw and wet (hence the hot shower now).
Originally, I was hoping to stay for two nights. My daughter allowed me one. I wasn’t going to fight this, as this is her first time away from home in this manner (and I knew she was excited about it) and a big part of the week is learning to be more independent. It would take away from her experience if I pushed my own agenda. The rational-Mom part knew this. The sentimental-Mom part didn’t like it.
I witnessed a interesting transition. It started at the busses at school early on Monday morning. No kisses allowed, Mom. Granted, I wasn’t going to be leaving her, as I was following the busses up to the camp, but STILL, usually a Mom’s reaction when her child is being separated from her is to give a kiss or a hug. Something. Not here, though. No way, sister.
Ok. She went to the bus. I headed to my car.
We get to camp. Instantly, I am grilled by my child as to why we didn’t bring the suitcase with the wheels, as everyone else is wheeling their luggage and she’s carrying hers like some kind of growling, short sherpa (camp rule: kids carry their own belongings).
“Well…” I say….”for one…it’s a CAMPGROUND. I didn’t think there would be paved surfaces at a CAMPGROUND. Call me crazy.”
Strike one for Mom.
“Secondly…the suitcases with wheels that we have are so large that you and your sister could both fit in them. That seemed a tad excessive for a five day trip to the woods, where, last time I checked, fashion choices were not being accessed. This is a campground.”
Neither rationale were sufficient or logical enough to quell the growling sherpa.
Strike two for Mom.
I made the mistake of mentioning that she might like to zip up her jacket as it seemed a bit breezy.
“Mom, I want my independence.”
Well, you can’t really argue with someone who has put their desires smack-on-the-table, in that clear of a way.
Over the course of the day, I did tag along with my daughter’s field group and ate at her dinner table (at the other end). Both I asked her about and she somewhat unenthusiastically agreed to let me join. I think that night was one of the first nights that I didn’t kiss my daughter before she went to sleep (when I was in proximity to her).
The Parent in me figured that I was there for only two short days and frankly, I’d like to see what my child is doing up here. I’d like observe the program, the teachers, go on the hikes…see what this is all about and get a taste of what she’ll be experiencing this week. Not to mention, I’m a nature girl and love this stuff. And mind you, and this is a big one, there are lots of parent chaperones on the trip. The camp staff actually said it was one of the biggest groups of volunteers they had seen. We are lucky to have a good class with involved parents. I’m not some lone, creepy, over-protected, chopper-Mom who HAS to be in the thick of things. I am merely curious,would like to be informed AND, more importantly, someone who likes to help the school when they need help and be an active part of my childrens’ education.
So…I did attend/tag along on the activities that my daughter went on, but I hung back. WAY back. I didn’t chime in to the conversations, I didn’t walk next to my daughter, I treated her like any other girl in the cabin (with the exception of a sweet glance here and there). I just enjoyed…in a silent way. To the point that at the end of the day, when we were recapping all that we had done, my daughter said that she had not even really noticed that I was on some of the adventures. Ok, good. I was doing this well. Call me Invisi-Mom!
The second day brought more hikes, meals and field groups. I continued on as usual, but daughter was speaking to me a bit more. We walked together a tad here and there (but not too close, of course). Shared more smiles and more conversation.
When five o’clock rolled around, it was time for me to depart.
Daughter looked up at me, rain dripping off the rim of her baseball hat, and with a sweet smile that held the mixture of independence and dependence, said “Really? Do you have to go now?”
(I’m getting misty just typing this now.)
…Roots and Wings…