Okay, I get it, I totally get it. The closer my children come to camper age, the more I understand a parent’s apprehension of sending them to an overnight camp.
This weekend was Kate (5) and Ellie’s (8) first day of a six week ski program. They have both told me all along that they had no interest in signing up. To which I have said, “I hear you, and you need to learn to ski. This is what we do in Colorado.” Fresh from a family trip to Mexico with corn rows and beads on top of their heads, we leave Denver in a snow storm at dark o’clock in the morning with a determined mother wanting to be there on the first day of ski school.
Voices ring from the back seat, “Mom we told you we didn’t want to go to ski school, we just want to ski with you.”
Me, “I still hear you and I am not capable of teaching you how to ski.” If you do not know this already, other kind, nurturing, and fun adults can teach your children and turn things around for them; often better than you can. It’s not that we are not good parents, it’s just the way it is.
As we approach the base of the mountain, both girls bundled beyond recognition, Kate starts to make a scene. The kind of scene all mothers loathe. The kind of scene where you feel as if everyone is watching you. The kind of scene where you feel like the worst parent ever. She is screaming, steaming up her goggles with tears and dragging her backpack and helmet on the ground behind her, “Mom I don’t want to go to stupid, dumb, idiot ski school, I told you a million times.” Still in my struggles, I stay focused on the end result. I shove their big feet into the little boots that Santa brought them. Ellie has an adversity to seams in socks, so she goes without them and it is 15 degrees out. I wrestle them to plop their helmets on top of their beaded, braided heads and hustle them to meet their instructor.
And then I doubt, “Does their instructor know that Kate doesn’t know how to stop yet? Will they stop trusting me? Are they going to hate it? Will they be warm enough? Safe enough? Do they have the right equipment on? Shoot- I forgot to give them their lunch, now I have to take them their lunch.” I am usually the person talking to parents about their doubts, because I know that their children will be okay. On this wintery day, I know that my children will be okay- more than okay. I know this. I am now reassuring myself.
I meet them at lunch (due to our tardiness, it is an hour later). Kate is laughing. That’s right, she is laughing! She has only ridden the gondola with some other children and the instructor since I have seen her. She doesn’t care for candy much… so I wonder what in the world did they do to turn it around.
I sit a couple of tables over and spy on them. I think to myself, this is what it feels like when our first time parents anxiously check the internet for pictures. I ski for a couple of hours somewhat close by and I spot them again after they have been skiing. They are chatting, carrying their own stuff and having a great time. I feel like a creepy lurker. I am relieved.
Although, they won’t fully admit it, they had a fun day.
I get it, I totally get it. The feeling of sending your kids into the unknown, an unknown that they might not want to enter. Hoping that they will be embraced by a kind adult who will meet their needs. Fearing that you are doing something that is going to threaten their trust in you. Wondering if they can make it in the world without you. As a parent, I know and understand these feelings. As a camp director, I have witnessed the tremendous good that comes out of letting them go and letting other people teach and love your children.
I am hoping for a better performance on our trek to the base of the mountain on Saturday. I embrace the journey of parenthood. I continue to be grateful to be able to help assure parents as they enter into the new experience of overnight summer camp.