A few weeks ago I did something that went against every parenting instinct I’ve had for almost nine years— I took my oldest daughter to a group of strangers in the woods and left her there. No electricity in her bedroom, running water several feet away, a large body of water close by and I left her there. It’s called “camp.”
It’s supposed to be a lot of fun, and she was excited to go, but as we got checked in, lugged her trunk to her cabin, met her counselors and scored a top bunk, I couldn’t believe that I was about to leave my baby in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of people I had never met. I could see the lake out of the corner of my eye and was bewildered at the number of years I’ve spent teaching her to swim, never letting her get in a body of water alone, and I was leaving her. With strangers— qualified, certified and kind strangers for sure— but people I do not know. It simply boggled my mind that Aubrey was old enough to be allowed to go to sleepaway camp for a week.
We walked around getting everything done for her registration and ate a popsicle as we walked. She was ready to get back to her cabin and meet her new friends and was ready for me to leave. (I picked up on her subtle cues when she said, “Are y’all gonna go now?”) I suggested a quick trip to the bathroom to remove her Popsicle mustache and walked with her. I wet a paper towel and started to wipe. She giggled, “MOMMA! I can do this by myself!”
“I know you can, I’m sorry! I’m so excited for you, Aubs. You are going to have the time of your life!” I said.
“Will you fix this braid?” She asked as she scrubbed her chin.
I rebraided her hair and noticed for the hundreth time in a week that the top of her head reaches my shoulder now.
We left the bathhouse on the way back to her cabin. She gave her Daddy a hug and a highfive, kissed both of her sisters, and quickly gave me a one armed squeeze around my waist.
“Do you want me to walk you to your cabin?” I asked.
She rolled her eyes and smiled a little, “If YOU need to…”
“I do.” I said as we turned for her cabin. On the short walk there, she leaned her head against my arm, curls damp from the humidity of the day and brushed a cheek against my arm, reassuring me that she would be fine. I teared up a little, thinking about her first day of preschool, first day of kindergarten, last day of kindergarten and all the other milestones that have whizzed past us at the speed of light and mentally checked another one off the list.
I took a deep breath and had a terrifying vision of the future:
Tomorrow she’ll go to college.
Next week she’ll get married.
Next month I’ll be a grandmother.
I need to go lie down.