My wife and I left the relative comfort of our bed very early on Sunday morning to drive two hours north of the city to collect our daughter as she finished off her first attempt at overnight camp.
This was the first time that she was ever away from us for any length of time. Even in recent months, she has very rarely slept anywhere but home, venturing out once in a blue moon to a birthday party sleepover or to her younger cousins house. On those rare occasions, she has been reluctant and anxious about the idea of sleeping anywhere but home.
So, when we parted ways with her last week, we knew she would have an awesome time, but were a little concerned that when night time came, she might get a little homesick and possibly struggle with it.
We were the first parents to arrive on site (the result of my wonderful driving skills coupled with the ungodly hour we left our house hitting a highway with virtually no traffic to speak of). We had to wait a half hour before the staff corralled the group of kids who were also participating in this “sneak peak” program to reunite with their parents.
Finally, 10 o’clock struck. I heard a staff member’s walkie-talkie screech “OK, let them go” and slowly, a trickle of kids started making their way to where the excited parents were waiting. First it was boys..one or two…most of them just casually strolling, trying to look cool and unfazed about meeting up with their parents.
I had my camera ready…as I wanted to get as many pictures of our daughter walking towards us as I could. But I wasn’t successful. Annie came running down the hill arms wide open headed right for me. She had a huge smile on her face and yelled out “Daddy!” at the top of her lungs. She lunged at me grabbing on to me like she was climbing a playground jungle-jim. When I was finally able to breathe again after her arms squeezed around my neck as tight as possible, I placed her back down on the ground and she bolted to my wife who was standing right beside me.
Her eyes were flooding with tears. She was balling her eyes out! OH NO!!! She had had a lousy time..or maybe she was crying hysterically because she desperately wanted to stay for another week? Here we go….!
None of the above.
Annie was crying tears of joy because she was genuinely thrilled to see her mom and dad. They were tears of happiness because she had missed us so much.
After she released my wife from her clutches, she then pulled me in and the three of us had a group hug…my wife and I wiping away our own tears as we both realized exactly what we were experiencing and how absolutely amazing this was. I was taking this all in because I knew this was an event in both our lives that we would remember forever.
Not that I like to compare (see my last blog on comparing children), but when we picked up our older daughter from her two week stint at overnight camp, while we did get a warm greeting…we were not received in the same way as our 10 year old. Molly was happy to see us but would have been happier to see us in another month.
Annie proceeded to take us on a tour of her camp, showing us her cabin and some of the places she liked to hang out most with her new friends and cabinmates. She walked around the campgrounds like she owned the place, constantly walking with her arm around one of us or hand in hand.
Once the tour was over, she knew it was time to go. She took it all in stride and instead of whining about not being able to stay longer, she “sucked it up”, grabbed her stuff and off we went…back to the city. She filled our ears with stories of her camp experiences as we made our way back down the highway. But as we drove, her sentences and descriptions got shorter and shorter until we asked her if she wanted to close her eyes and have a snooze, to which she replied, “yes”. She went out like a light and slept the rest of the way.
My wife and I had travelled the rest of the way with smiles on our faces and a warmth in our heart that cannot be described. We know our children love us and our children know that they are loved.
But those hugs and tears that we encountered when our daughter saw us for the first time after a week away, was a reminder of just how all the effort is worth it in the end. Our daughter loves and appreciates us. Simple as that. Nothing in the world can replace or come close to the feeling of being loved.