Posted on | June 1, 2015 | 3 Comments
We had a busy weekend, full of trips to the pool and the park and playing with friends. Then this morning, J pulled his back pack onto his back and climbed into the car for the trip to his very first day of non-school summer camp. Sure, he’s been in camp before, but it’s been right at the Montessori school, with the Montessori teachers. It’s been a controlled environment with skilled adults leading the way. Today was his first day of summer camp.
Real summer camp.
He was excited all morning and even more so in the car. It wasn’t until we checked him in and started down the pathway to the pavilion that his hand reached for mine and he whispered “I’m a little nervous,” into my listening ear. I was a little nervous, too.
It probably doesn’t help that I was a summer camp counselor in high school. It probably doesn’t help that I know the ropes and rules and ways of life for a summer camp counselor. I’m sure that my view of those teenagers is skewed by my own experiences herding groups of children through outdoor summer activities. But regardless, when the lanky teen looked at me quizzically and said “I’m not the guy in charge of this part,” and walked away from my son and I, I wanted to scream “BE IN CHARGE, DUDE. MY FIVE YEAR OLD IS NERVOUS.” But instead I calmly waited for “the guy in charge of that part,” who turned out to be genuinely awesome. I watched as J followed his instructions on putting his lunch in the right place and putting his backpack just where it needed to go. The teen then turned to J and said “Alright man, you can head on down to the playground,” and my son took off around the corner as though I were nothing. As though I weren’t the same person he needed only moments or years before.
“I love you!” I called out, transforming into that crazy mom from Almost Famous and wanting to chase after him and toss my body atop the grenade of age and wisdom that was stealing away my baby boy. Instead, I simply turned the corner behind him to see if he made it safely to the playground, scanning the crowd of children for that familiar messy hair and blue star wars t-shirt.
And then there he was, half way to the bottom of the hill, standing still and tall and looking around as though he weren’t entirely sure of the life that lay ahead. I waited for him to move, to take off down to the rest of the kids but instead his eyes met mine and he smiled that sweet half smile and turned back to me.
“I love you, mom,” he called out, barreling into me for a quick hug. Then, as though maybe my love had energized him, he took off down to the playground, all legs and arms and almost six-year-old-ness. Though I stood and watched for a lifetime longer, he never did look back at me. Finally, I moved away, heading back down the winding pathway to the quiet sanctity of my car where I could let the tears fall.
My son is growing up.
The little boy who has been almost the entirety of my world for six years is doing what six year old boys do and getting taller and smarter and more adventurous. He is growing and changing and all the while, I am achingly just the same.
I am still the person who swaddled and rocked and nursed his tiny body. I still feel that need to shelter and protect and wrap him in my arms. My need and love for him… it never changes. It doesn’t shrink or bend or break with his back talk or intelligence or entirely too grown up vocabulary. I am always and only the same.
But he is not.
And this learning to let go is a slow and painful process when I am still the same.