It's 9:15 a.m. Wednesday morning. I just finished a great '"beat spin and abs" class and I'm feeling good. A bit lonely, but gooooood.
Last week, I sent my boys off to sleepaway camp, together, for the first time. The people I have bumped into have asked me, "So? How does it feel to have both your kids gone for the first time?"
My answer? "On a scale of 1-10... 1,000,000!"
And they just look at me.
Who is this woman who so freely admits she hardly misses her kids and is celebrating her freedom?
The truth is, for the first couple of days it felt like I had lost a limb. Like someone had literally cut off my right arm. But now? Now I have a sense of calm, baby. And perhaps even peace. I lie in bed in the morning sipping coffee flipping between The Montreal Morning News, The Today Show and Good Morning America. I went to a movie yesterday at 4:30 p.m. A Sunday afternoon movie that I wanted to see... not a kids' movie! I'm hoping to go to the Jazz Fest tonight. I have dinner plans with friends this week. I don't even feel tired anymore since even the emotional drain of raising children can be exhausting.
And I feel no guilt about my happiness.
Well, firstly, because I heard from camp that they are both thriving and having a great time. But also because when you mother to the fullest, to the extreme, this kind of feels like a welcomed break. And you don't feel the guilt, you allow the happiness to free flow.
I have no doubts about my love, devotion and commitment to my children throughout the year. I often give up fruitful career opportunities because I just wanna be there for them every day at 4:30 when they come home. I want to be the one to do the homework with them, to give them dinner, to take them to hockey and hear about their days. I give up coaching clients, speaking engagements, brand opportunities and TV segments (you know how much I love live TV), all for my mini-beloveds.
Make no mistake this is a monetary sacrifice. Knowing that I could be making more money if I say yes to the opportunities that present themselves is often biting, but it has been a personal choice. My choice with two young boys at home. And we all have to do what works for ourselves and our families. We cannot sit in judgment of others and the choices they make.
But I digress...
Back to the joys of morning sex without kids around!
Just kidding. ;)
These lucky children, mine and perhaps yours who get to go to summer camp, are fortunate. Fortunate because summer camp is so wonderful, of course. But really fortunate because summer camp packs in all sorts for learning FOR EVERYONE in such a short period of time. Learning to rediscover who you are as a woman, not just as a mother, but as a real woman, for starters. Discovery by your children of their own true strengths and weaknesses, for seconds.
Camp provides many wonderful lessons, for parents as well as kids:
Camp lets kids experiment without their parents on their back
Imagine the freedom these kids feel when they get off the bus, and mom and dad aren't there. They get to take more risks, make judgment calls on their own and experiment with what works and what doesn't, without us in their hair and without us catching them if they fall. And as the saying goes, "Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn." The skills that our children learn at summer camp without us hovering like helicopter parents are character-building. Camp builds resilience and pushes them out of their comfort zone, without us either celebrating their victories, or comforting them on their losses. They learn to self-soothe.
My son learning archery this week
Camp is the tech break they so desperately need
Nothing much to say here other than they actually learn social skills again! Meals without a screen -- they have to talk to one another. Downtime without a screen -- they can read more often. Bedtime without seeing what your friends are doing on Instagram -- they can tell tell ghost stories and let their imaginations run wild. The tech break alone is reason enough to make parents thrilled about summer camp.
The tech break brings freedom to MOVE!
Summer camp injects passion back into a marriage
The stresses of living a hectic life with careers, carpool schedules, school life and extracurricular activities often leave little time for a couple to bond without distraction. Sleepaway camp allows the couple to do the activities they both enjoy doing, without any compromises. Just being able to lie in bed and sleep in on the weekend with no one to care for but each other is magical. I say, make every moment count with your partner while your children are away!!
Summer camp fuels creativity because it gives you a chance to think
I had to throw this point in here, because I do my best career plotting and planning when I am away from my kids. The brain break from raising kids allows creativity to flow more freely. Just take a walk after dinner in these hot summer nights with no reason to rush home, and see how many new ideas you drum up for yourself. Kids away = creative brain.
It makes a mensch out of them
No, you don't have to speak Yiddish to understand this point. They just GROW UP and MENSCH OUT at camp. They learn how to navigate life without you for a while, and they come home more emotionally grown up. They learn how to become better citizens of this world when someone else is in charge of them for a while.
Figuring out how to wipe your own butt and apply sunscreen without your parents? Priceless.
Meeting people outside their social circle makes career connections for down the road
When you leave your school friends and meet other kids, sometimes even from another country, you're building new bonds. These friendship bonds often stay with our kids long after they leave summer camp. I have seen many kids I know get jobs and summer internships through their camp friends. Our kids may very well be networking now and they don't even know it.
Everyone will appreciate each other a lot more upon return. Honor the renewed appreciation and do what you can to preserve it.
One of my favorite pictures the camp snapped of such a real moment. Visiting Day 2014: Hugs, tears and appreciation upon seeing son and big brother after a month.
When we all ran into each others arms last visiting day, we knew that absence had made the heart grow fonder. My older son said to me, "Mommy, I'm so happy and grateful to see you and daddy. I realize how much I appreciate you after being gone for one month." AHHHH, so let's all try and remember that feeling, and keep the momentum going. Don't let the respect collapse.
It's true, I ran away from camp, missed my parents terribly and made their lives miserable while I was gone. What can I say? It was tough leaving them -- they were phenomenal parents. I was an only child, given an abundance of love and nurturing.
But still, so many lessons were learned. My parents made me stick it out and I credit these letters for my endurance, my resilience, my toughness and my never-give-up attitude.
I miss my boys. I walk into their rooms every day and smell their things. But, I am grateful they have these experiences to help shape their childhood. I would sacrifice every meal out and every pair of shoes to give my children these summer experiences.
(Originally published on WomenOnTheFence.com)