Monday, July 12, 2010

Off to Camp

I don’t know of a mom who really ever likes to send her kid off to camp. Oh, sure, we joke about how we’ll enjoy our peace and quiet for two weeks or how we’ve been counting down the days until our little Johnny or Janie is gone. We like (and need!) our breaks.

But to me, that’s just joking. No mom in her right mind ever feels normal again until little Johnny or Janie is back home, tucked into his or her bed at night, and we breathe a sigh of relief.

This morning I put Maggie on a bus to camp, a bittersweet proposition at best. I know she will have a great time stomping around in the woods, eating I-won’t-know-what, maybe even getting her clothes really wet and loving it. She’ll make new friends, some that will last a lifetime. And she’ll learn a little more about the One who created the big, beautiful world she’s stomping around in.

But there’s a part of me—a big part of me—that just doesn’t feel settled when my kids are away. I think that’s entirely normal. They are, after all, a part of us, and when they’re gone it feels like a part of us is missing.

(Just as an aside and because I’m soon sending one off to college, I wonder if that feeling ever goes away.)

This morning as I was sending Maggie off, putting her on a bus to begin adventures of her own, I was more excited for her than I was sad for me, but that hasn’t always been the case. I remembered, as I watched one sobbing, red-eyed mother put her sobbing, red-eyed son on the bus, that the first time I sent a child to camp I was in her shoes. I was scared. I was nervous. I didn’t want to let go.

And I cried. Oh boy, did I cry. Not so much in front of her like this mom did this morning, but after I got home and throughout much of that first day, I cried.

Now, almost 10 years later, I want to hug that precious mom who loves her boy so much and tell her it will be alright.

It will be alright because time has to move on. Your boy has to grow, and this may be the first step toward a secure and positive future for him.

It will be alright because he will change, and the changes you’ll see in him will be good.

And it will be alright because no matter what happens to him, he is in the care of the One who made him and who loves him more than you and your breaking heart do.

It’s camp time of year. I could say a lot about that, but I won’t right now. For now I’ll just say to that mom who has a hard time letting go, just do it. You’ll be better for it, and so will he.



  1. And it will be all right when you send Kate to college, to her first job, when she buys her first home. Because you will know that she is ready to grow up and has been equipped by you to do well.

    I still cry a little when my boys leave home after a visit. But there is also a feeling of accomplishment to know that you got them where they are with God's help!

  2. I loved this post, Shelley.

    Our daughters are 25 and 28 and live together in Chicago. We live in Seattle. You do get used to it, but we are always so happy when we all get to be together. It always feels like Christmas morning. And I always cry when I say goodbye - they are part of my soul. I love having adult kids. Your work is done and you just get to enjoy them. I feel spoiled.

    I am leaving Thursday to spend two weeks with them. They have a long list of things for us to do. I can't wait.


  3. Sorry, Shelly, I spelled your name wrong.


  4. Oh, Glenda, have fun in Chicago! (It's going to be HOT.) I love your words "they are part of my soul." I totally get that.

    I love your thoughts too, Linda. Thanks! So it's O.K. to cry . . . just a little? :)

  5. I realize my kids are lodged in between your kids' ages, and younger. . .but I do think I can relate.

    When C turned three, she entered preschool, and rode a bus to school each day. I thought I would literally *die* letting her get on that school bus. These days, it's the highlight of her school experience!!

    In two years, she will be eligible for a "sleepaway" camp experience two hours from here -- the camper to counselor ratio is 1:1. Other families send their kids -- and the results are AMAZING.

    I say all this to say that I cried. I still cry, sometimes. And, I guarantee I'll cry as we drive away from her at that camp.

    And the mere thought of E going to college in 3 years does me in, too. Can't even go there. . .'re 100% right. There's the old saying about wise parents giving their children two things: roots & wings.

    You have done both. And your girls are going to do amazing things with those two precious commodities.

  6. Oh, Angie, now you're making ME cry! THanks for that sweet comment.

  7. Shelly:

    We just had our first experience with camp, albeit only for 3 days/nights. Dropped J. off and was VERY apprehensive leaving my "baby" in the care of perfect strangers!!!

    All was well and J. had a great time and didn't miss us one bit, as he very gently (so as not to offend:-) told us.

    Now he can't wait to go to camp for a week (or two). We'll have to talk camp with you guys to get your opinion.

  8. Shelly, My daughter is off at her second camp in a row this week. In fact, I didn't even get to see her in between the two because she flew straight from L.A. to Texas, right over my little head! I know exactly what you mean about not being quite right until she is home. I'm so thrilled for her to be at a performing arts camp this week because she is right in her zone! But I'll sleep better when she is sleeping under my roof again!

    But you're also right that she will come home a changed, better, and "grown" person. I can trust God to care for her in her absence just like He does when she is here. I feel your pain and your joy!

  9. In a week I am dropping my daughter off for her first overnight camp. Friends have asked me, "so..will mom be sad to see her go?" and I reply "who do you think filled out the paperwork?". In all truth, I am excited for her adventure and a little worried for her as well. Katherine is 12 and drives a power wheelchair so camp is not your typical camp. She will be with other in similar circumstances and while I know she will be watched and cared for I am still a bit anxious too. I trust that she will have a wonderful time and will have loads of stories to share and I hope that she is able to make a friend or two and will want to keep in touch with that friend.
    I guess we all come to that time no matter what our situation when we our kids go off on their own and learn to cope without us.
    I'm holding my breath and will breathe a bit easier come time to pick her up.