Yup, I did it. Can’t believe it actually, but I made it though my children’s first time at sleep away camp (or as they say here in Canada, “sleep over” camp). As you may recall from my post June, “Eek summer”, I was worried. Not for my kids and the usual “mommy worries” like them missing us, getting hurt or not brushing their teeth, but worried for me. How would I feel? How would I deal with the quiet? The emptiness and sadness that would come from missing my kids and entering into new territory of "empty nesting". Might sound ridiculous to those in the throws of packing up their kids to the local pool with tired and hungry children. But very real to many a stage or so ahead. So read on and get prepared.
Yes, I did get through it because not sending my kids to experience the wonders of camp that my husband and I both enjoyed as kids was not an option. Beleive me, I thought about it but quickly realized that it would have been for me, not them. And just like anything in life that is “hard” and filled with mixed emotions, I can honestly say I am better for doing it. Was it hugely “successful”? Probably not by most people’s standards as I wasn’t out partying till the wee hours, didn’t disregard all sense of responsibility in favor of “me time”, nor tackle everything on my never-ending “to-do” list but my standards, it was good enough. That is success for me. I travelled with my husband to a far away place, worked, spent time in NYC with family and friends without worrying about my kids and relaxed by the lake but I have to say, I am most proud that in spite of missing my kids terribly, I was able to look the dreaded “quiet” right in the face, deal with it and not always run to fill it which is my usual M.O. For me, that’s a huge success.
I learned a lot this past month in my first entrée into empty nester-hood and hope that I will remember it all for next year when my kids already have already prepared me they are going to camp for a lot longer. Here are some of the highlights:
- Have a realistic vision This took me a while. I wasn’t sure what to expect. A second honeymoon? A month long party? I realized that unless you are going on a trip for the entire time your kids are away, have unlimited funds, vacation time or the ability to eat and drink till you drop, you need to deal with the fact that real life continues. Just a lot less laundry and grocery shopping.
- Socialize, even when you don’t feel like it. Take advantage the money saved in babysitting and go out! With your partner, a friend, whomever, just do it. You will regret it if you don’t.
- A good marriage is vital but won’t carry you through … I really love my husband. I know how lucky I am. But when you are both missing your kids and realizing that it is just the two of you (and not in a good way). Yikes. People can get cranky. You need to re-connect and re- adjust. Different than a date night or even a weekend away. Take the time to get to know each other again, be honest with each other and have some fun! You will still miss your kids but at least you can do it together.
- Know what you need. Historicall I am pretty lousy at this but this time I rose to the occasion. Probably out of fear but nonetheless, I spoke up. I realized that having my husband continue his usual crazy travel/work schedule was not going to work for me for me while the kids were away. It is hard enough when they are here. So I asked for some special consideration and for the most part, he listened! A few reminders along the way but it made all the difference in the world. He made an extra attempt to be home, have dinner with me, plan fun activities and pay a little more attention than usual. If I hadn’t asked, it would not have happened that way.
- My kids can flourish without me. They truly did. They came back from their month at camp with new confidence and contentment. They learned from their cabin mates, their counselors, they navigated new routines, personalities and activities, forged new friendships and challenged themselves in ways that simply would not happen with us.
So who says learning doesnt happen during the summer. It was a learning month for all of us. Mixed with lots of fun and sun, what could be better? Except August that is, when we are all together .