From Independence Day to Total Independence – By Cara Potapshyn Meyers
As we celebrate this Day of Independence for our country, I will be preparing my son for furthering of his independence as well. My son will be leaving this weekend to go to sleep away camp for two weeks. There will only be one phone call allowed on the weekend he will be there, in between the two weeks. Otherwise, he will be on his own, except for counselor supervision. We have never gone this length of time away from our son. This will be a milestone for all of us.
I have said plenty of times that my son is the epitome of independence. Now we will see how he fares being on his own for two weeks. He will be closely monitored by camp counselors, but the luxuries he has at home will not be available at the camp. He will either call us after a week and beg to come home or else he will spend no more than five minutes on the phone talking to my husband and me, then race off to immerse himself into whatever activity is on the agenda.
I never had the luxury of going away to camp. My husband has. He essentially told me to get the most inexpensive clothes, in the darkest colors. Also to send the least expensive sneakers or shoes, boots and jackets, in case they need to be “trashed” when my son returns home. There are no clothes cleaning facilities for two week campers. Although I want to send 14 days worth of clothing, my husband tells me that if our son actually goes through a week’s worth of clothing, it will be an amazement. Knowing my son, I have to agree.
My husband and I went together yesterday to an inexpensive local store to pick up some of the “necessities” the camp suggested we send with our son. These “inexpensive necessities” totaled almost $200. I jokingly said to my husband, “We’ll have to open up a savings account just for the items Brandon will need when he goes away to college!” He rolled his eyes and asked me not to “go there” just yet. I then remarked that whatever items become “trashed,” need to be replaced, or our son grows out of, will also need to be replenished next year, if our son has the same eagerness to go to sleep away camp next summer. My husband let out a huge sigh.
Although I am told that wanting to go away to camp at age eight (soon to be nine) is not at all unusual, none of my son’s friends seem “ready” to take that leap away from home. When I’ve mentioned to friends of mine with children my son’s age that I am busy preparing for my son to go to sleep away camp, they not only looked surprised, they also looked astonished and remarked that their own children will either never want to go to sleep away camp or else their children are “just not ready” for it yet. I certainly admire these parent’s understanding of their child’s “readiness” or lack thereof. You cannot “push” a child into this type of situation unless they are comfortable with it and are eager to venture away themselves. As I already mentioned, my son may be hysterical when calling us at the end of a week, begging to come home. In that case, we will drive up to get him, whatever time of day. On the contrary, he may get on the phone and say, “Hi! Having a great time! Oh! There’s Jordan! I’ve gotta go! Love you!”
Several years ago, when my son was about four years old, I kiddingly asked other parents when their children started going away to sleep away camp. My son was such a handful at that time, I secretly hoped they would say age 5 or 6. When they told me that their children went at ages 8, 9, or 10, I was the one who let out a huge sigh. Now my feelings are more ambivalent. I know that this time will be rejuvenating for me. It may even help me get my life on a more predictable schedule or at least establish some type of routine. If nothing else, it is the first major step towards greater independence for both my son and me. It will also give me a better perspective about ensuing adolescence and the need for even greater independence. We shall all “grow” from this experience.
Regardless, I will miss my son like crazy. As will my husband. My husband already mentioned that he wants to sneak up to the camp during the middle weekend and “absentmindedly break the rules.” I had to remind him that although my husband would love it, and perhaps our son would love it, it would not be a good idea because it would ultimately hurt and confuse the other children whose parents followed the rules and stayed home. He reluctantly agreed that I was right and hoped that my son would want to have more than a two minute conversation with us that weekend. I reassured him that if Brandon only wants to talk for two minutes, it means he is enjoying himself and wants to get back to the activities. I think between the two of us, my husband will be having an even harder time “letting go.” I have consistently encouraged independence in my son, so I am a little more “used to” these parental “growing pains.”
Be on the lookout for a follow-up blog regarding this experience. I’m certain that there will be much to tell!
Have a safe and happy Independence Day to all of our readers!