She has been working as a day camp counsellor since the start of the summer, going to camp each day only thinking about how many days remain until she boarded the bus headed for two weeks of freedom from the wrath of her parents.
My wife and I have gone through this ordeal once before. Last year, I think we all decided that we needed a break from each other. She was desperate to put some highway between my wife and I and I have to admit, the feeling was mutual. Up to departure day, it was a bicker-fest…one blow-up after another; us losing our patience with her and she being snooty with us. Her getting on that bus last year for those two weeks gave everyone a chance to cool down and re-group.
This year, the vibe was different. The bickering was mostly around how overpacked she was for her two weeks at camp (you would have thought it was a fashion show..not a stint in the Northern Ontario wilderness). She was also dealing with a summer cold and didn’t want to give into it by getting into bed early so she could fight it and be done with it in time for her departure.
Beyond that, it went by relatively smoothly and her two friends from camp last year were on the bus so she boarded it with smiles and confidence and even took time out to give us both a hug and a kiss (even though its so uncool to show any affection for your parents in public….ew!).
So, now we are down to the three of us at home. To be honest, while I miss the hell out of my elder daughter, the sense of calm and peace that has infiltrated our house since her leaving for camp is incredibly addictive.
We sleep in a bit later, meal preparation is less stressful since my younger daughter is more receptive to our meal offerings than her finicky older sister. There is less laundry, less food shopping…less stress.
While I hate to admit it, there is just a more mellow vibe in our house since she left for camp on Monday.
Two days after she returns from overnight camp, my younger daughter leaves for her 17 days away from us. I will miss the hell out of her as I do her big sister. But it will be interesting to see how the vibe of the house shifts when my younger daughter is gone versus my older daughter.
I remember when I was counsellor, meeting with the parents of my campers on Visitors Day. Many of them were so tanned, relaxed and mellow when I met them. I remember them saying how wonderful it was to be able to send their kids to camp so they could have a vacation from their children.
“How awful it was to say that”, I remember thinking to myself. If you so desperately want a break from your kids, why have kids in the first place?
As a 46 year old adult and father of two wonderful children with some years of parenting experience under my belt, I sort of understand what the parents were saying…now that I am one. I know my kid is having a blast and is safe. I know that the whole camp experience can be an extremely beneficial life experience and will be good for her in the long term.
In the same way that my older daughter could not wait to see our backsides as she boarded that charter bus to take her away, we as parents, need breaks from our children….plain and simple.
The camp experience is a great thing for a whole bunch of developmental reasons, but it also gives a child and their parents a pause; a break from one another…a chance to re-charge..to have some alone time and some distance so that when reunited, the bond is intact. Seeing each other again after a period of time, makes family members appreciate each other even more.
My wife and I will not be totally without both children this summer as they are away from us at different times, but the change in the vibe of our house with one of them away at a time, gives us both a moment to catch our breaths, to spend some quality time with each of them individually and to remind ourselves of how wonderful our children really are and how blessed we are to have them in our lives.