The other night, my lovely Eliana had a fit of nervousness about leaving for 5th grade camp. That, coupled with my imminent departure for 3 weeks in India, had my daughter in tears, wondering how we’ll endure the separation.
It will be hard, no doubt, and for both of us. But an opportunity for growth all around.
My kids have never gone to overnight camp. The reasons are many – disconnect with my ex, who embraces overnight camp but wants a strict religious one while I do not; uncertainty on the part of the kids; the sheer cost of sending 4 kids for a month.
I spent 9 years at overnight camp and loved it. The memories and friendships are powerful, even today.
And yet. The first 5 years that I went, I was homesick, missing Mom and Dad, missing home, missing routine. I got through it, and I’m sure doing so built independence and courage in me.
Eliana’s set to attend a week-long 5th grade camp with her class at the end of this month. I’ll drop her off on a Monday morning and she’ll return Friday midday, when I’m already on the other side of the globe.
So it’s three days of not being at home or with a parent. And she said, “I’ve never been somewhere where I couldn’t come home.”
Saying it that way broke my heart. Because in a way, home is in the heart, right? Home is theoretically inside us, when we find that comfort and strength and knowing.
For a kid, though, home is where their parents tuck them in at night, where the family gathers around a familiar table for a home-cooked dinner. Home is where your clothes are in a drawer, and someone who loves you guides you through showering and homework and relaxation and joy and laughter and occasional anger.
Going to camp, then, is a venture out into the world of the unknown…alone.
A great idea in some ways. A terrifying one, too.
My parents believe strongly that all kids should go to overnight camp. I’m not totally in agreement. For so many reasons, I think everyone should have the good fortune to experience camping – whether for one night or a full summer.
But ever since I became a mother, I have believed that children need to be nurtured by their parents for most of their young lives. I believe that when children are ready to take flight, they will – not forced, not pushed out of the nest, but on their own when they feel strong enough to do so.
I also believe that perhaps not every child is meant to fly. Perhaps the very definition of family is constant support and cooperation throughout our lives. What would be wrong with living down the street from family once we begin our own families?
It is a societal construct to go far and away. In so many cultures, many generations inhabit the family compound, for their entire lives. It’s just the way of the world.
But not our world, of course.
And yet, we live in a world where obesity and insecurity and depression and anxiety and anger and so much dysfunction reign supreme. Do you think, just possibly, that early and constant nurturing might be the answer to rectify all these problems?
I remember hearing a story of a young mother who was adamant about sleep-training her babies. One baby just wouldn’t have it and cried and cried whenever he was put in the crib.
The mother retreated to the basement, where she couldn’t hear the poor kid’s cries. He worked himself to such a point that he threw up. Once she discovered this, she simply placed towels on the floor all around the crib, and left the baby once more.
The story turned my stomach then and it does now.
We are born needing love and wanting to give love. Our lives matter because of the roles we play in impacting others, in making the world better, in connecting with other souls.
In recognizing we are ONE.
My daughter will be fine when she goes to 5th grade camp. And she and I will both be fine during my long overseas absence.
But there’s nothing wrong with wanting to spend your days and nights with the people you love and who love you. There is just nothing wrong with it. Even if we want our whole lives to center on this.
Think about it. Why would we ever want to push away connection and love?