"Dear mom and dad, I love camp. We had pizza and soup for lunch. I'm having soooo much fun. I love you."
My 9-year-old, away from home for the first time -- away at sleep-way camp for four weeks -- is having a great time. I am so happy. I am so sad. His letters beam with enthusiasm and smiles. He's eating, he's making friends, he's sleeping at night -- he's surviving. How did that happen? The night before he left, I'm the one who gently rinsed the shampoo from his hair as he sat in the bath tub talking about going to camp. He was scared, he wasn't sure kids would like him.
A little later he even cried as we snuggled in bed, like we do every night after reading stories. He said he was going to miss me.
But now the truth is in. The source, my husband, who two weeks into the session spent three days on staff at the camp, called to tell me that Daniel looks wonderful and is having the time of his life. "I think he put on weight," he said.
He's joining the camp singing at all the meals, he helps clean up the bunk for inspection, he participates in all the activities -- even art. He's ecstatic to see his dad, but runs off to join his bunk for swimming. Perhaps most touching was the report that for his elective activity, he chose to work at the camp radio station -- my profession.
How did this happen, where did I go wrong? Or right? I've spent nine years hanging out with Daniel -- playing roller blade hockey, riding bikes, hiking -- not to mention cooking, cleaning and laundry. We talk, we fight and we solve problems together. Where in the world did he learn to get along without me?
Ishould have been suspicious. As we packed for camp, I kept urging him to pick out things he wanted to bring -- Pokemon and Star Wars cards -- the survival kit of any nine year old. "No mom," he said, "I think I want to leave all that stuff at home -- I want to do camp without the things I always have at home." He knew things were going to be different; why didn't I?
When he left, one of my greatest concerns revolved around Daniel caring for himself. In the days leading up to his departure, I managed to work "changing your underwear daily" into every conversation.
My same source says that when he checked the underwear supply, there were 15 perfectly folded pair. "How many did you send?" he asked. "About 20 I think. So that's almost a new pair every other day. Not bad." But the latest report made it worse. The counselor corrected our initial conversation: "Actually, he got back his full allotment from the laundry and folded it neatly himself. Not only that, he's cleaning and dressing up for the girls."
Suddenly changing underwear is the least of my concerns. I now understand that my relationship with my son is forever changed. We will over time, go through a series of goodbyes. And I will have to hope that he continues to get along without me, while I try to figure out how to get along without him.