I sent my girl off to her first summer day camp today. That really isn’t a big deal in the big scheme of things, but it felt very big to us.
Since Everett was born nine months ago, Avery has been hesitant to have me out of her sight, even for a second. I joke that if it were possible for her to re-enter the womb, she would do it, no questions asked. Perhaps then (and only then) would she feel close enough to me.
Even when I’m simply walking to another room of the house, she follows. As I go from room to room cleaning up the house each day, she is no more than two steps behind me. The other afternoon as I was doing just that, I walked in and out of the room, putting away toys, starting laundry, cleaning dishes. As I bent down to pick up something off the floor, my rear end bumped into her on the way down.
I stopped, and very calmly turned to face her.
“Avery,” I said.
“Yeah?” she asked, bracing herself for what was coming next.
“Let me explain something to you,” I said in that steeled voice that lets her know I am very serious. She looked at me wide-eyed with wonder.
“Listen,” I said. “If Mommy is bending over and her butt hits you as she bends over, it means you are too close, okay?”
“Okay,” she says, defeated.
I repeated just to ensure her understanding.
“If Mommy can’t even bend over without her butt hitting you, you need to give me a little more space, okay?”
“Okay,” she said.
And so it goes around here.
Since I signed her up for a week of summer day camp a few months ago, I’ve been concerned about whether she’d actually be able to do it. So Friday night, as I lay in bed next to her tucking her in, I brought it up. We hadn’t talked much about it, but I thought it was time to start preparing her.
“You know what Monday is?”
“It’s when you get to go to camp at the Science Center. You get to do lots of fun experiments and play all day long. Isn’t that so exciting?”
She didn’t say a word. She lay there in her bed staring quietly up at the ceiling, hands folded over her chest. I watched her face change ever so slightly and tears began collecting in the corner of her eyes.
The tears began falling slowly, and they glistened like diamonds rolling down her cheeks.
“What’s wrong? Why are you crying, little doodle?” I asked her.
“How long do I have to stay there?” she asked.
“You get to go every day for a week. You’ll play and do science experiments and you’ll have so much fun. It will be awesome.”
“But, Mom, I’m afraid.”
“Why are you afraid? There’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s going to be fun.”
She sat quiet for a few more seconds.
“Mom, it’s just that you are the person that I love most in the whole world, and I don’t want to be away from you that long.”
“Oh, my baby,” I said as I hugged her really tight. “I love you the most in the whole world, too, but you can love me even when I’m not with you. When you love someone, you carry that love with you in your heart and you love them even if you can’t see them. Daddy and me, we don’t see each other all the time every day, but we still love each other.”
I went on to say, “I’m still going to be here when you get back. I’m going to be home doing the same things I always do. But you! You get to go out and do really fun things, and you’ll always be able to come back here to me. I’ll still be here, I promise. Even when you’re a grown up and you decide you might want to go away for a while, on a vacation or something, you can always come back and I’ll be right here.”
She rolled to the side and looked at me with her sweet, tear-stained face, eyes as bright and blue as a summer sky.
“Yep. I promise. I’ll be here no matter what. And you know what? It’s okay that you’re afraid. Even Mommy is afraid to do new things sometimes. But, what I want you to do is to try to be brave. Being brave means that you’re afraid, but you try that new thing anyway.”
She rolled back over and looked at the ceiling again. The tears paused.
After a few seconds, I asked her, “Do you think you can be brave?”
She looked over and cracked a huge smile.
“Okay, mom. I’ll be brave.”
This morning as we got dressed, I wrote a little reminder on her hand, just in case she started feeling afraid. When I dropped her off at the Science Center, she was as excited as she could be. There wasn’t a hint of hesitation.
She was off on an adventure, ready to brave the great unknown, even if her unknown is just a preschool summer camp.