I didn’t do a post yesterday because I was out of town. My husband and I drove my three kids to a summer camp, Circle ‘C’ Ranch, nearly two and a half hours away.They are teenagers, (well the youngest is a year shy, but that’s beside the point) so they are more than old enough to be away from mom and dad for a few days. I know this camp well, I worked there for summers during college and it was one of the best experiences of my life. I know the owners and directors and trust them implicitly. They are solidly grounded on Christ and make sure their summer staff is the same.
But . . .
My babies have never been away from home for more than a sleepover unless we went as a family. They are picky, overly-emotional, cranky and at times they are very hard to live with. But they are mine. Will the counselors know how to talk them down when they get angry or sad? Will the middle one, the picky eater, find enough to fill his tummy? Will the youngest, my sweet daughter who changes moods at the drop of a hat, get homesick and cry for me or the stuffed animal she forgot?
When we arrived at the camp, in the rain, we went through registration with nerves prickling. Will there be any kids that will be my friend? Will my counselor be nice or mean? When’s lunch? We met the counselors and dispersed to the different cabins, the boys sharing different sections of the same cabin, my daughter across the street. Within minutes, my oldest found a like-minded friend and I all but ceased to exist. The second one followed us around for a while, then went back to his cabin to see if he could repeat his big brother’s accomplishment. My daughter stayed with me until the final minutes before going off to her counselor and the young cabin-mate who asked her to take the top bunk so they could stay close.
My husband left to get the car and I was left alone. The rain had stopped, but the roof was still dripping and main street glistened beneath thinning clouds. It looked so much the same as it had 20 years ago, yet it was different. This time I was the parent leaving my kids to find their own adventure. I found I wanted to stay, to experience it with them, yes, even to relive my youth and those four wonderful summers.
Now here I am, the house achingly silent around me. I thought I would enjoy the time to myself; No more arguments, no more complaints, no more ‘I’m bored’. But instead, I find myself straining my ears for the sound of laughter as they watch a video together. I listen for a newly changed voice to sing, slightly off key, with his ‘tunes’. I need to go to the store, but there is no one to go with me. There are no young arms wrapping around me, my daughter coming close for a cuddle. There is no younger son coming in from a bike ride to tell me, in detail, how he got the new scrapes on his legs because he was trying out a new trick. No oldest son interrupting my writing to show me his latest drawing.
My nest is empty. I finally understand why my mom held my sisters and I so tight when we came home from college or for a visit. I understand the tears when we say good bye again.