Take a Deep Breath and Let Go (Part II)

The cat followed me into Big Sister’s bedroom, close on my tail, and when I made myself comfortable on her bed, he followed suit, curling up in a ball at my side.

We surveyed her room, neat and tidy, missing the usual mix of discarded shorts and t-shirts littering the floor.  There were no half-drawn pictures or half-read books strewn about, waiting to be finished.

Her dolls were lined up in an orderly fashion, without the promise of a tea party or a new adventure for the afternoon.  Her desk top was deserted, markers and pencils corralled in their cubbies, denied the opportunity to bring ideas to life.

It had been a week since Big Sister boarded the bus to camp, all smiles and waves, while I bravely hid my red-rimmed eyes behind dark sunglasses.  This was a grand improvement over last summer, when my parting image was of her sobbing into her tie-dyed pillow (read about that HERE).

This year was different.  She was a big girl, a veteran.  She worried about the other first-timers and vowed to comfort them in case they felt sad.  She knew the reward for being brave was several weeks of independence, having fun, making friends, and trying new things. 

Testing out her wings without Mama hovering.

And as I linger here in her empty room, just to feel close to her, I know this is right.

For every twinge of sadness I feel when I can’t grab her for a bear hug, I picture her beaming face on the camp website, arms encircling new friends.

For every time my throat tightens when I remember I can’t tuck her in at night, I imagine her snug in her bunk bed, whispering and giggling with her cabinmates.

For every ache I feel in my gut when I long to ask her about her day, I cling to her letters, full of excited details of each new activity she’s tried, and each triumph she’s attained.

As hard as this is, I know this is right.

As for Little Brother, he is soaking in the undivided attention, ecstatic that we can spend our entire morning playing with cars or blocks without Big Sister stealing the spotlight.

And I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge the relief I often feel knowing that there’s one less mouth to feed that day, one less minion to manage, one less living being to keep alive. 

The peace in my house is tangible without the daily sibling squabbles, and in their case, knock-down, drag-out, fight-to-the-death battles.

Yes, rolls of wrapping paper can be light sabers.

But for all the fighting, there is love that sneaks in, even if it’s disguised as a zombie in Minecraft.

Thank you, Sweet Jesus, for five minutes of Minecraft.

I know he misses her, too, and in the blink of an eye, she’ll be home, and they’ll pick up where they left off.

Time feels suspended today, though, and I remain in her room, soaking in the lavender goodness.  The soft, girly comforter beckons me to stay, and I’m drawn to the pictures, notes and trinkets on her bulletin board, all clues to the secret of who she is becoming.

All of this will surely evolve, as she grows into the young woman we’ve raised her to be, ready to leave the nest to take on the world.

But for now, I’ll take comfort in knowing that she’s coming back.

And this is all good practice for the day that she doesn’t.

Because that day will come, friends, when we Mama Bears will have to take one last deep breath and let go.

Don’t worry, we’ll do it together.

*****
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Comments

  1. ummmm.....my son just finished p his junior year of high school...I'm going to grab a box of tissues now ;)

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    1. I do remember your post from when she left last year. I am so glad there was joy this year! The thought of their clean bedrooms is glorious for a least a few moments!

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    2. Andrea...a junior!!! AHHH! But it's all going to be good. Deep breaths. I have to say that the clean bedroom is quite a nice thing. Kind of makes it all worthwhile :)

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  2. I usually sleep one night in Max's bed when he goes off to camp. Especially the nights I miss him most.

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    1. Aw, Krista!!! I had a feeling you'd relate.

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  3. aw totally sweet. How old is she? I can't imagine sending my boys off to camp or anywhere longer than a night. And Minecraft does have a way to bring the siblings together, I can attest to that. ha ha

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    1. She is almost 10 and very independent! Camp has been a great experience for her (and us). And I definitely have a love/hate relationship with Minecraft, ha.

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  4. My daughter just turned 1 this month and reading this made everything well up. Eyes, chest, everything. I know those days are coming. Beautiful writing though. Touching and beautiful.

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    1. I never knew motherhood required so many hankies :) So glad it touched you.

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  5. I'm looking forward to camp this year, when I'll be sending BOTH of them to Camp Grandma for a week. It will be Caroline's second such adventure and Sam's first. Maybe I'll get it done for two. God I'd love the time to write. I did miss my bird when she was gone last year, but I enjoyed the space and freedom and her pretending she hadn't missed me only to spontaneously snuggle up at every opportunity when she got back.

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    1. I'm looking forward to lots of spontaneous snuggles once my daughter is home. Camp is a beautiful thing.

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  6. A great portrait of the mixed emotions of sending a child to sleep-away camp!

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  7. Aw....this really tugs at the heartstrings. It reminds me of when I sent our youngest daughter off to camp for the first time and how I felt as I watched the bus drive away. She was so excited, smiling and waving to me from the window, but all I wanted to do was cry. Very nice post!

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    1. The first time was the worst. This time was much easier, but still requires a backbone of steel!!! Thank you for reading.

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  8. Oh my goodness! I haven't reached that point yet, but I sure hope that I can be as strong as you seem to be.

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    1. You will be. You just do what you have to do :)

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  9. I liked this! I'm older, so for me it evoked the day when I left my son at college for the first time. A rite of passage, well described.

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    1. Oh college...that's going to be tough. But liberating at the same time.

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  10. I used to think those experiences were to teach our children to learn independence. In hindsight, I realize it was teaching me to let go. Great post.

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    1. You just hit the nail on the head. As I sit here and force myself to quit checking for pics of her on the camp website.

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  11. Yesterday my girls were toddlers and today they are living in their own apartments. When you become a parent, times seems to lose its meaning. It sounds like you are doing an excellent job. You should be proud.

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    1. Apartments, gah! I am just doing the best I can, like everyone else. Some days better than others. Thank you for being my cheerleader today.

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  12. So, now I'm crying. With the school year ending here tomorrow, the idea of time passing with no way to stop it has been weighing on me. It is ok, and it is right, but good grief it's hard sometimes. Lovely post.

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    1. Thanks, Michelle. Sorry for the tears. It's a messy thing we're trying to do here, raising these kids. It helps me to write about it.

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  13. It's right, but hot dog -- I'm not sure I could do it for the 6 or 7 weeks so many of my friends are starting to do. I know it's good for them, but oh dear me…oh dear me.

    This was beautiful, and I know you're right!

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  14. Oh this is beautiful. I'm glad we'll have each other to lean on when that day comes, because I wasn't expecting how verklempt I'd be at my son's 8th grade graduation. I'm going to be a mess in four years.

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  15. I think my comment got lost :( This was such a sweet post! My 10yo has no desire to go to sleepaway camp. But my older son is heading off to college in August and it will be so weird and sad that he's basically not living at home anymore. Yikes!

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  16. This is just beautiful. Honest and heartfelt and so very well written. I loved it, especially "all clues to the secret of who she is becoming." There's no relationship in the world like a mother and her daughter. :)

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  17. I remember coming home from my first camp and my mother was all over me and I was so confused. I'd forgotten to miss her. Poor mom!

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  18. You are giving her the gifts of trust and selflessness. What more can a mom do?

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