My daughters Maggie and Reese have been arguing all summer. Today’s insult-ridden, yelling and whining battles included an argument about which of two identical fishing poles belonged to which sister, and later, who got to circle items in the Lands’ End catalog first, despite knowing that I didn’t plan to order anything for them. Somehow, the girls strategically position themselves in the same room with me, under the delusion that I enjoy these performances. On a good day, I walk away, but many days, I end up yelling along with them.
In mid-August, my headstrong girls will leave for five nights of overnight camp. One would think, after reading my description of our daily rapport, that I would be counting down the days. A week of quiet, giving me time to get organized, run errands, binge-watch Netflix, and enjoy date nights with my husband. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
I am dreading that week. I am dreading watching that bus drive away. I am dreading wondering if I packed the right things. I am dreading the smart phone addiction, waiting for the one time each day when Facebook pictures from camp are posted. I am dreading seeing a deer (or a Pokemon) in the backyard and not having anyone to share it with. I am dreading having to choose a non-Disney channel to watch on TV. I am dreading five days when I will not see their faces or hear their voices. I am dreading the feeling that my heart gets when half of it is gone. I am dreading looking longingly down the road for the bus to return. And I am dreading the sad looks on their faces when they have to say goodbye to their friends and counselors and go back home with me.
I could just not send them, right? Well, here’s where I have to back up a little and tell a story.
Two summers ago, I started receiving emails from a local breast cancer survivors’ group about Camp Kesem, a free overnight camp for children of a parent with cancer. I promptly deleted them. After all, Maggie was six. What kind of parent would send their baby away to stay with strangers for a week? Though I’d rarely attended events with this group, I guess being the “young mom” among grandmas made me stick in their minds. After a few deleted emails, I received a phone call with a personal invitation to send Maggie. Driving home from swim practice that day, I asked her, “Maggie, do you know what overnight camp is?” Without pause, she responded, “I wanna go!”
It later came out that she’d been under the impression that I would pick her up every morning and bring her back each night: a week of sleepovers, if you will. However, when I told her the real deal, she still wanted to go. So I packed her up and sent her off to what became the best week of her life. All for free.
As hard as it was, that year was okay because 5-year-old Reese was still home with me. But last summer, they both willingly left me. Oh, my breaking heart! And it will happen again this summer. So I have a list of four things that I must do to survive.
- I will breathe in and out all day, exchanging carbon dioxide for oxygen on a constant basis.
- I will eat and drink, providing my body the nourishment it needs to be alive when the girls’ bus returns.
- I will keep my phone charged, eliminating the possibility that new photos of the girls will be posted and I will not see them immediately.
- I will resist the urge to drive to the camp grounds and watch them from behind a tree.
(You thought I was going to have some real tips, right? Sorry to disappoint you. This is survival mode we’re talking about.)
I do not consider myself to be a sentimental mom. I’m happy to see my girls growing up and becoming independent. Due to my stage 4 breast cancer, they will qualify for free weeks at Camp Kesem until they are 16 and will have these memories for life. I am thankful for this wonderful program. But darnit, I will miss them!