On dropping off my kid at camp for the first time

I am tucking the sheet around the mattress on the top bunk which she has chosen because it runs perpendicular to her friend Belle's. I imagine them later that night, all muffled giggles and flashlights burning dim. I am forcing the rumpled sheet around the mattress and with each tuck I am enfolding so many things. Two streams of feelings flood me: Did I pack her a hoodie? Did I love her enough? Does she have enough toothpaste for the week? Did I love her enough? I am tucking in every hope of every parent who has ever sent their kid to camp: Please, please, have so much fun that you have no time to miss home. Please don't just eat Frito's and drink Lemonade all week. Please be kind to the girl that everyone thinks is a weirdo. The weirdoes all grow up to be awesome people, trust. In the days leading up to camp, my daughter was different. More aware, more sensitive. She hugged me tighter, visited kindness more readily upon her brother. It is both easy and completely aggravating to love the child who is antyspantsed excited about something on the horizon.


But there is new under the campground sun. For in every stage of parenting, there are victories and crushing losses. I am ecstatic that my child went barreling onto the top bunk without fear. I am so pleased that she then came down and group hugged us with a vice grip. I am bereft to know that I will blink and suddenly she will be asking me to back off and let her put the sheets on her bunk. In her college dorm room.

There is an unspoken contract that parents make in sending their kids to camp for the week. It is different than simply sending them to school because with school you have some say-so with their lunch orders and where they sleep. With sleepaway camp, you sign away your rights to intervene for the designated time; you trust that whatever you learn will be born either of necessity or overflow. You gain the right to not have to coordinate, support, discipline for the week; you surrender your rights to ever truly know what really happened. In short, you empower your child to have his/her own life--to not only eat cereal for dinner if she so pleases but to harbor the experience of crushing hard on a boy for the first time deep deep in her heart. She will tell you about one or both or neither because you empowered her to make that choice.

Our house is so quiet at night. The absence of one is surely felt. I don't want that hole ever to be filled by any but that beautiful girl. Bittersweet is one word. The taste of two elements at once. I hope one day she knows exactly what it means.