Like a Counselor without Campers . . .
(Originally written Tuesday, September 1, 2015)
Today my kids went to school . . .
Which might not seem like an occasion meriting a sappy blog post. After all, kids go to school. For better or for worse, in recess fun and homework drudge, it’s what they do. Nothing to write home (or blog) about.
Except that it was my son’s first day of Kindergarten.
His first full day of school.
Sure, he’d been to preschool (three mornings a week) and 4K (four afternoons a week) and even Vacation Bible School (8:30 – 2:00 for four consecutive days this summer).
~ But today is the first day of thirteen years’ worth of all day every day, five days a week school. ~
As we stood in the entry way amongst his classmates, their parents, and some really big kids waiting to be released into the halls and classrooms, his looked up at me with an expression not unlike that of a deer caught in the headlights.
His sister, a seasoned fourth grader, took everything in stride and inched as far away from us in the mob as she could, ready for independence and trying to look as cool as possible with Mom and little brother in tow.
I could see the excitement in my sweet Kindergartener’s face, but he clung onto my hand a little harder than usual. The only thing that made it easier to pull my hand from his and say, “Have a great day,” was knowing he’d have fun and be well taken care of.
And as I walked home, feeling (irrationally) as if I were leaving him a million miles away (we literally share a property line with the elementary school), I had a major flashback to the moment three years ago when, after unrolling her sleeping bag and giving the obligatory don’t-forget-to-wear-sunscreen lecture, I hugged my daughter good-bye and left her at camp for her first solo week (AKA Mom and Dad weren’t counselors or deans).
Somehow, leaving him one fence and a sidewalk away today felt just as big as leaving his sister one time zone and a state away at camp.
Today isn’t just a big day for my Kindergartener. It’s a big day for his stay-at-home mom, too. For ten years that’s what I’ve been. Mom. Staying at home. Watching cartoons, building blocks, cleaning messes, practicing letters, making lunch, reading books, and doing all those other “Mom things.”
Today I’m still Mom, and I’m still at home. But the kids aren’t, so who am I?
My husband and I often go to camp in the off-season. It’s so peaceful to walk (or snowshoe) around camp when nobody’s around. Sometimes there’s so much activity going on during a week of camp that you don’t have a chance to just stand still, look around, and breathe in that summer camp scent. You forget how beautiful camp is when all your energy is being spent stressing over skit night props and newsletter deadlines and junior high friendships gone awry that you have to put back together.
You can also get so much done. Work group projects go much quicker without the constant interruptions of “Can you start my gimp” and “So-and-so’s cheating in the gaga pit.” Prayers can be for yourself instead of a long list of issues the kiddos brought up during devotions that are now weighing on your heart.
And it’s so quiet you can actually hear yourself think.
Peaceful, empty camp always feels wonderful.
For about ten minutes.
Then it just feels lonely and wrong.
Because what is summer camp without campers?
Sure, it’s nice to be able to walk around camp, enjoying the sights and sounds without a care in the world, no responsibilities, no time frame, no bell ushering you from one activity to the next. Nobody there to need a swim buddy on the chilliest morning, nobody to remind repeatedly to be quiet during chapel, nobody to locate and count down at the emergency meeting spot after the fire drill.
But there’s also nobody to laugh with, nobody to teach, nobody to share your testimony with, nobody to take care of.
What’s a camp counselor without campers?
And what’s a stay-at-home mom without kids?
It’s quiet here. I can hear myself think, and I’m pretty sure I’ve gotten more done in the last few hours than I did all summer.
But, just like empty, off-season camp, the house feels lonely and wrong.
Today I feel like a camp counselor without campers.
What’s a stay-at-home mom without kids?
I’m honestly not quite sure yet, but this former stay-at-home mom is also a writer who has dreamed of the day she can go from “naptime-hour-writer” to “full-time writer,” which means it’s time to hit “post” to this, move on, and get writing . . . perhaps about summer camp.