Family and Parenting

Off to Camp

“Mama, how long have we been away from home?” Younger asked me. We were out west visiting family.

“About ten days,” I calculated. “Why? What’s up?” I wondered. We had nearly a full week left of our current stop, and another ten days after that before we returned home.

“Ugh,” she sighed. “I don’t stand a chance at camp.”

Younger is only seven, and she’s only made it through an overnight at a friend’s house twice, so if she was anxious about 13 nights away at camp, I was three times more so.

Older had already bowed out of the overnight portion, weeks earlier when we were packing. She collapsed in tears, “overwhelmed.” I didn’t admit to her how relieved I was.

I see so much of myself in her. I felt it so strongly, right from the start, that I’ve always thought of her as my “Soul Sister,” after that Train song that came out right around the time she was born. Younger has a totally different personality, and though we both suspected she might not make it through all 13 nights, she was realistic rather than nervous. And though I don’t ever want Older to be anything other than exactly who she authentically is, I wish I could save her some of the pain, fear, and stress that comes from being like us.

I enjoy adventuring, but like her, I’m easily overwhelmed by new situations, especially bustling ones. I like to stay on the sidelines observing before I get involved. I get stressed when I can’t fully imagine how something is going to unfold, intimidated in large groups, and nervous to speak up in them (even though I often have fully formed thoughts and comments).

And yet, I’ve learned over the years that feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment accompany exactly those things I resisted. 95% of the time, I’m glad when I talked myself into putting on some pants and getting out there, even though I almost undoubtedly felt like staying home. I often look back on things that kept me awake, heart pumping, trying to anticipate how they would be, and see that it was all going to be fine — even laughably, mundanely so. I hardly needed to spend so much energy trying to know it all.

I wish I could pass this knowledge on to Older, who may surpass me in resistance to novelty, venturing out, and performative tasks. But wringing my hands as she tried the long days of camp (even though she packed it home each night instead of sleeping away), I came to understand that she would have to uncover these things herself. My job is to worry about her, to hope for the best — and to keep talking myself into my own activities.

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