People, as the end of school draws near, as homework and the elusive treasures that are matching socks have become familial albatrosses that make me want to run away at least once a day, I am both thankful and terrified. What were Tom and I thinking when we decided to let the kids go to sleepaway camp for six weeks?
I know what we were thinking. Camp would be: an incredible opportunity for growth, independence, adventure, and the acquisition of new skills that I'd rather not teach (see: emergency shelter construction and axemanship, among others); a complete electronics detox as there is no electricity at camp save for the kitchen; a new context in all ways; a summer spent mucking around outside with eighty other boys. And lord, it was their idea!
And I still maintain that for Jack and Ol, camp will be a rare truffle.
"Six weeks?!" everyone exclaims.
"No visiting day?"
"No phone calls?"
"Wow- are you beyond excited? How will you spend that time? You and Tom must be THRILLED."
We are thrilled. We look forward to reacquainting ourselves as a couple with relatively little in the way of responsibility and schedule. We're going to take our first trip abroad together sans kids since before Jack was born nearly twelve years ago. All of that is fantastic.
But what is becoming abundantly clear is that I did NOT really consider what the boys going to camp meant for me. And as the time to head to Maine draws near, I feel a ludicrous push and pull of sorts: desperate to throw the undersized catch back out to sea and immediately desperate to reel it in again because honestly? It's adorable.
In the ways families do at the end of a holiday or the last week of summer or, as it were, the last month of school. we're all fritzing out right now. I could literally not care one bit of one iota about anyone's homework anymore. So, while it incenses me that the kids aren't much motivated for it at this point (because that means I have to nag them to do it), I can hardly blame them.
This afternoon, they were bordering on batshit nuts over rewriting a story in Mandarin and drafting an essay about colonial-era cooks. I excused Ol to go ride his bike, and an hour later after, admittedly, very calmly and capably completing his math homework, Jack went out to join. They teamed up with the girls next door to run a lemonade stand and came in for dinner, hot and sweaty, at twilight. Meanwhile, I cooked their dinner, enjoyed a glass of wine, and voraciously read some Patrick Melrose. It was divine. Reel in the adorable small fry.
And then, as dinner wrapped, it wasn't. OMG, cast the line as far as you can. All the way to Maine if possible! I'm telling y'all, I just quit. I most definitely yelled and I refused to get off the couch and away from my book. I refused to discuss colonial cooks for even one more second and for petes sakes, people, I DO NOT KNOW Mandarin. Not my wheelhouse. NOT.
I'm left, tonight, tired and vexed. Earlier, as I finalized our plans for bringing the kids to camp next month, my heart was pounding out of my chest. What if our beloved morning snuggle tradition ceases to happen after six weeks off? How will I tolerate not hearing my boys' voices for six weeks? (Apparently if your child celebrates a birthday during camp, you can talk briefly that day. Amen for Jack being July 4.) I mean, I don't go five days without talking to MY mom, and I'm 42 years old.
What does it mean to have spent twelve years constellating around two bright starts and then have them go dark for a short while? In theory it sounds fantastic. But in practice? I'm starting to wonder.
This evening, pissed to the nines and tired as get-out after a random bout of insomnia last night (stress anyone?), I thought about how very much I could use some real downtime. Not a night, not a weekend, not even a week. Some real, extended time to breathe and sleep and not be interrupted ad nauseum. To read a whole book in one sitting if I want. To garden without having to set an alarm to run carpool. To not for one spot of time think about colonial cooks or butts or feeding forever-starving little mouths, even if they're the most perfect mouths ever.
I just checked on the boys. They are asleep, their foreheads sweaty, their lips rosy. They are finally quiet and still, and my eyes pricked with hot tears for how I will miss them and their silliness and their snuggles. I believe this summer will likely be a grand learning experience for all of us, one it seems I might need. For they aren't growing younger and sooner than the amount of time I've had them with me, they'll go. Off into the world, returning less and less as children who grow into adults tend to do.
So I guess what I'm feeling is the first big break. The first tug that really pulls the line between us taut, straining at both ends, in opposite directions. It's harder than I expected.