OK, Moms: it’s time for some cold, hard truth.
Your children can survive without you.
I remember leaving my daughters with my husband for a weekend when they were little and feeling like I needed to leave notes on every detail to make sure they would be okay without me. You know, the important things, such as the exact time for brushing teeth and how to cut their sandwiches. I’m sure you can guess how closely those instructions were followed. But miracle of miracles, they survived. And they even ate their sandwiches. If I had been there, those sandwiches would not have been acceptable, but with things being a little different anyway, they were more open to doing things differently.
It’s not that there’s anything wrong with cutting sandwiches the way they like them. It’s just that sometimes I act as though if things don’t happen the way I do them, my daughters might shrivel up and die.
So sometimes I have to remind myself to let go and let them experience something different. Then they can return to the familiarity of home after having that chance to learn and grow. This is what growing up is all about.
Sending your daughter away to camp for a week or two is serious letting go. Life at camp is going to be different from life at home. Here are a few examples:
- At home, she may shower every night. At camp, they will do their best to get her in the shower at least once a week. Every child has an opportunity to shower every day, but here’s where independence comes in. They get to choose if and when they will shower. Now, camp counselors are awesome. They notice if a camper hasn’t showered, and they know how to kindly encourage her to get cleaned up. And they make arrangements to be sure that the younger campers get a shower at least once. But moms, we need to let this go. They will survive!
- At home, she may go to bed at the same time every night. At camp, she’ll probably go to bed a little later. There’s just so much fun to pack into one day! That’s why there’s a rest time after lunch so everyone can recharge for the afternoon. Your daughter will survive! (But she’ll be pretty tired when you pick her up.)
- At home, you may carefully watch what your daughter eats, making sure it’s got a healthy balance. At camp, a nutritional menu is provided, but you are not there to make sure her vegetable portion size is big enough. Again, those counselors are terrific. Cabin groups eat family style at round tables, and the counselors encourage girls to try all foods. They have an eye out for what they are or are not eating. But this is another area where our girls get to exercise their independence. This is what we are preparing them for! This is their opportunity to take what we’ve taught them about healthy eating and make good choices on their own. But she’s still young. So she might not choose to eat quite as many peas you’d like. But guess what? She’ll survive!
- At home, you might make sure that she puts on clean clothes every day. At camp, she might wear the same shirt every day. (See exhibit A below- but don’t mention anything to my daughter about wearing that sweatshirt every day for a week at camp.) She’ll survive that too.
Our job as parents is to help them build a good foundation so they are ready to go out on their own someday. Camp is an opportunity for them to get some practice with independence in a safe environment, so let go of some expectations (the ones that involve our full control over every detail) and let her stretch her wings a bit!