This has proved to be a tough day for no real terrible reason. Lots of tears have been tumbling out of my reddened eyes & I’ve been trying to keep myself occupied, (luckily, Ikea has been a
good annoying distraction – more on that in another post.) I didn’t bother even putting on make-up today, because I knew it would be another emotional day.
Like I said, it’s not anything tragic, but I’m a big sobbing mess. Why? The Boy started summer camp today, and was away from me from SEVEN excruciating hours! It was harder on me than it was on him. And it’s not just that camp started, it’s that preschool is finished, kindergarten looms in the very near future, and he is almost 5 … time is moving way too fast for me.
Wasn’t it just yesterday when he and I were taking Mommy & Me swim classes at the YMCA? Wasn’t it just last week that we hatched caterpillars that grew into butterflies and set them free in the front yard, caught up in the magic of the moment? Wasn’t it just last month when we would have long periods of quiet bonding time, me relishing in the way he discovered the world around him?
Where did the time go?
Now he’s ready to spread his wings & fly away from the nest – not too far, but far enough to cause me to hold my breath. Will he be ok? Will he remember to re-apply his sunscreen? Will someone help him if he is having sensory issues peeling his banana? Will the camp counselors remember what I told them & help him with social interactions, or will they leave him to fend for himself? What if a kid is mean to him, pushes him, hurts his feelings & I’m not there to intervene? My mind was swirling with a thousand “what-ifs” all morning long. I mean, I would feel like this if he were an NT kid, but he’s not & although he seems typical, he still is an Aspie & has special needs.
My job is to protect him. Besides The Husband, (and his Grandparents) no one else in the world takes this job as seriously as I do … and then the control freak in me just felt so uncomfortable with all the variables that are absolutely OUT of my control. And bottom line, it’s really hard for me to trust – especially to trust that someone else will care for my child the way I expect them to.
The Boy & I talked the entire ride to summer camp; role-played on how to make new friends, what to say, what to ask, talked about how to keep our hands to ourself, talked about asking a counselor for help if and when The Boy needed to take a break because there were going to be a lot of kids around him, we went over his home phone number, my cell number, our address and a slew of other things … WITHOUT freaking him out. Just casual conversation. And then, after a lull in our conversation, he said:
“Mommy, I’m a bit nervous.” My heart leaped, but I had this.
“Honey, that’s ok, it’s normal to feel nervous when you’re starting a new adventure. I feel nervous too when I am trying something for the first time, so does Daddy.”
“What if I don’t like it?” He wondered.
“Well,” I swallowed & searched for just the right thing to say. “I think you’re probably going to have so much fun and make lots and lots of friends, but if you try it for a week or so and you decide you don’t like it, then you don’t have to go back. But you do have to be brave and give it a try … doing new things & meeting new people is part of growing up.”
“But I miss my friends from my old school – I want to go back there.” Now, here’s where my heart sank … This poor child has been shuffled around to 3 different schools now & it’s been tough to put down any kind of ‘roots’ and make lasting friendships – every time he bonds with someone over the school year, we’re off to another program, never to see them again.
“Honey, your pre-k school is closed for the summer,” I explained, “everyone is going to different summer camps or they’re on summer vacation, but we will see your friend Dani for play dates, and you will make new friends here – it is going to be a lot of fun.”
He accepted my explanation and we got out of the car and walked in to this new, unfamiliar world of summer camp. We checked him in, dropped off his backpack & he was excited and happy as I took his picture for the purpose of documenting his first day of summer camp in 2014.
I walked him to the door that led to the play yard outside, and he kissed me good-bye & ran outside, full of hope and excited energy. It was all so fast – I wanted him to linger for a minute, but knew that wouldn’t be a good thing – better to rip the bandaid off quickly.
I watched him from a window where he couldn’t see me … he wandered around aimlessly for a few moments, as I held myself back from running out to his rescue. He was just about to strike up a conversation with a couple of older girls as a basketball slammed into the side of his head! I had to resist the instinct to intervene – I waited to see what he’d do. He shook it off & shortly thereafter he started a game of race with another older boy. A camp counselor was nearby and monitoring the interaction. I felt better, but still uneasy. I crept out, and then found another vantage point to spy from … I spied for another 10 minutes and then I had to force myself to go.
The truth is this … I don’t want to miss one moment of his life. Selfishly I want to be there for every little thing, I love seeing the world through his eyes – he’s always filled with wonderment & awe over all the discoveries he makes during the day. But I know that the right thing to do is to give him some space to grow & explore the world without me right there on top of his every move narrating the story, but that’s really difficult for me. I also want to protect him, help him, guide him, and monitor everything.
But it’s not about me – it’s about letting him drift away from the nest a little bit & letting him put into practice all of the things we’ve been working so hard on, (social skills, self-help skills,) and not ever letting him see how much it affects me. He can’t know that it breaks my heart to have him away from me for more than a few hours, otherwise, he would want to comfort me and take care of me & never leave my side. I will never be that kind of burdensome mother. I’ve seen them in action & they disable their children to the point of a role-reversal. And Typical or NT, I think this kind of a transition (the growing up & letting go) is hard on any (good) parent.
So, I suck it up, I walked back to the car, losing the fight with the tears that were distorting my vision. I got into the car, shut the door and just sobbed for a good ten minutes. I’m not ready for this transition. If I had a magic potion, I would keep him little for a while longer. Though I don’t know that I’ll ever be ready for him to grow up … It’s my job to prepare him for what lies ahead in this great big world. And as with pretty much every job I’ve ever had, there are some things about the job that are not easy. Letting go just a little bit & letting your little bird spread his wings is not easy to do, but it is the right thing to do.
When I went back to get him (and believe me, my eye was on that clock every other minute, counting down!) He was happy to see me, gave me a hug & said “Mommy, I had so much fun! And I made lots and lots of new friends, just like you said.”
That made me feel a little better. A little.
I hope tomorrow is easier. (Update: IT WAS! I feel much better today … )