My son has just left for camp. Last year, he went for 12 days and loved it. This year, he’s gone for a month.
I’m happy for him; I remember camp and how much I liked it, how sad I always was to leave. But now, from the parent’s perspective, I feel a bit bittersweet about the whole thing.
Today, I chatted with the other parents and with the staff, watching as kids greeted long-lost friends from 11 months ago. “How nice,” I thought, and I meant it.
I laughed as my son popped on and off the bus, raring to go.
I waved at his disappearing silhouette as the bus pulled out.
And it’s not like I’m about to break down.
But. I didn’t want to come home. I became the most social, chatty person today as I tried to talk to everyone out and about, to stall the inevitable.
I didn’t want to see the room full of his things or hear the echoing emptiness.
I miss the whining “Mom, can I…” which only yesterday was still driving me nuts.
And little things make me pause.
His scooter, which he never hangs up, was lying in front of the door…with the 2 soccer balls he should have put away. Normally, that would annoy me but today it made me a bit sad.
Then his empty Froster cup stared at me from inside the garbage.
The little note he left my husband and I on his desk, saying he will have fun and he hopes we’ll be alright, did make me sniffle a small bit.
I’m such a suck! But then, he is such a part of me and of my life.
Saying that, the one thing I keep thinking is, Now I can write. Last year when he went away, I wrote two short stories about a boy named Charlie who goes off to camp. They’re languishing in obscurity somewhere in my blog archives.
This year, I’m partway through two writing projects that I’ve been trying desperately to focus on and I’m also participating in Yeah Write’s Summer Series. Truth be told, I can hardly wait to jump into all that writing!
Does it make me an awful parent – and person – to say that? Selfish?
These are mostly rhetorical questions. Of course it doesn’t.
But I am conflicted.
I miss him but I crave time to myself.
Especially since he and I have been a bit frustrated around each other lately. He is no longer interested in doing all the things he used to want to do with me, which is totally normal. He is developing his own interests as all kids do, but he wants me to partake in them and as they’re not things that I can or really want to do, our time together the past few months has been strange.
I can’t play soccer the way a 9 year old boy can.
I can judge his soccer moves but I don’t have the focus (or interest) do it for an hour; partway through, I start looking at my flower garden, thinking about which plants need to be tended.
I can watch him scooter around a skateboard park but not every day and not for more than an hour or so.
I can play goal tender to his star striker position but again, not for more than an hour.
Each day, I will suggest some things to do together and invariably he’ll complain and say he wants to play soccer. I love soccer, but there’s only so much I can take.
I remind him I have things I like to do and want to do, too.
I remind him that I’m not his entertainment committee.
I’m firm about this, but I do feel just the teeniest twinge of guilt. And he knows how to play on that. He points out the parents who do play with their kids. He tells me about the families who organize day-long soccer tournaments. He points out adults playing soccer or tossing the ball around and asks why I’m not like them.
I’m sure even the most involved parents step back and take time for themselves at some point. Or want to.
Now I guess I have a month to do all the things I want to do, guilt-free and soccer-free.
As much as I miss him, as much as I cringe when the little things of his jump out at me, I am determined to make the most of this time to do what I need and want to do.
Soon after he returns, I will be going back to work. And then my time really will be limited.
So, this month is my luxury, my sanity and my opportunity to be selfish.
I think every good parent needs to do that every now and then, otherwise they can’t keep being good. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of those around you.
And I’m sure everything I’ve described is a normal phase in the evolution of the parent-child relationship. We all have interests, we are all growing and changing – not just the kids – and at times our individual interests will be at odds.
Like everything else, navigating this phase is all about finding balance and common ground.
And sometimes, it’s about finding your own ground, ground that has not been touched by the other members of your family.
Like camp. And like the virtual ground of the blogging world.