A conversation I had with Scarlet last week:
Me: “In only two days, you’ll graduate from Safety Village Summer Camp!”
Scarlet: “Nooo! I don’t want to graduate!”
Me: “What? Why? You don’t want to leave?”
Scarlet: “Wait, what does graduating mean? Does it hurt?”
A little, my Scarlet. A little. Only in the heartstrings of your parents, though, generally.
It hurt me in the heartstrings when I graduated too – each time. Preschool, 8th grade, high school, college. Even stagnant but long-term jobs. Each time before graduation was like a painful and tight cocoon that I stepped into, and when I emerged, I wasn’t really a beautiful butterfly. I was just cold and scared. I always eased into new transitions in my own time, though. A reluctant butterfly?
It doesn’t all have to be so heady though, does it? We’re talking about preschool “Safety Village” summer camp.
It started when my friend saw me cry next to my car last week. It was the first day of summer camp drop off.
Actually, I’m not sure that he did see me cry because I may have run into my car at the last minute, after fumbling through a choked up, “See you later” and jumping into the van. I did hear him say, “Well, we live so close to here..” and that did make me feel better.
If she needed me, I would come.
It’s times like these – the haunted times – that make me feel I’m not emotionally cut out to be a parent. And then I think it’s the opposite – I’m exactly cut out to be a parent because I feel the suffocating gravity of what this all means. These precious lives we hold for a too-limited amount of time. So I think deeply about what it means to gain her trust. Is it to hold her tightly to me at all times? Or is it to let her go and make some of her own choices, little by little, and then having me come back to her at the designated time.
Just like I said I would.
I dropped her off and heard one of the worst sounds in the world – her crying and calling out for me, “Mama!” The lip biting. The tears spilling out. How could anyone leave that? And then, how could anyone not leave that and not let her grow and not let her try summer camp out for herself. All the way home, I cried in the car. Des looked bewildered when we got home and he looked at me.
We waited the four hours together. And by that I mean he took a long nap while I tried to get work done. Instead I replayed the morning over in my head. Every so often, another sniffle. I kept the phone next to me at all times because they said they would call if they needed me. And they never called. I went to pick her up with bated breath and she was smiling and laughing and full of stories. Two counselors told me how much fun she had. As the two weeks winded down, every pickup was the same – happy. And every drop-off was easy. There was one in which she said, “Mama, wait” while I was on my way out. I turned around and she smiled and said:
“Try not to cry in the car again this time.” And you know what? I didn’t.
At the end of the two weeks, there was a graduation ceremony. Des and I were ready in the crowd:
And then we saw her. The only one lined up without a safety hat. The only one lined up with a scowl:
She just got scowlier..(new word)
It turned out to be a hair tie incident. She wore a ponytail to camp that morning but had to take it down for bike riding with helmets. She lost her hair tie. The counselors couldn’t find it. She couldn’t find it. She didn’t want to wear a safety hat when she has genuine princess tiaras at home, (thank you very much). Commence scowling. You want to hear the best part? After the ceremony, I found it within five seconds on the playground because I have that kind of radar. You want to hear the other best part? She did finally have fun at the ceremony. Sorta. She got some groove back after the diplomas were handed out..
The ever-popular dancing to “Stop, Drop & Roll.”
Oh, and they played “Pomp and Circumstance.” Now tell me – can you listen to that song without crying?