Wednesday, July 20, 2011
At age 12, my son was finally ready to go to a sleep-away camp for a week. We'd offered last year, but he admitted that he didn't think he was ready. This year, he all but jumped at the offer. My little boy is growing up and ready to begin the separation process.
In the morning, we ran errands. Went to the bank. Got the oil changed on the car. Filled the car and got a carwash. The last item on our list was lunch. As we drove up Capital Circle, I heard an odd noise coming from the front of the car. It sounded like a flat... a flappy, flapping flat - but the car didn't drive any differently. I resolved to check it out when we got to McDonalds. I almost never go into that restaurant, but that day we parked. I got out and inspected under the car the best I could but couldn't see anything. As Z got out, he noticed that one of the panels on the side of my car was missing! Two things gone wrong before our little road trip. Argh! We went in, got our lunch and came back out to retrace our steps. The hideous flappy noise began again, so I pulled over where there was plenty of space to look under the car all around the front and discovered that the oil pan cover was just barely hanging on. We drove back to the oil change place and they reattached it with zip ties (I'd lost most of the clips that held it on), then back to the car wash where apparently the dryer at the end got under the edge of the panel and pulled it off. Those things must be powerful! They'd already found it and walked back out to the car to put it back on for me.
Finally, errands completed, we went back home to collect Darling Man and started off on our hour and a half drive a bit later than we'd anticipated.
I was driving and the guys were ragging on me because I was going 69 mph (speed limit 70). People were passing almost constantly, including a Smart Car. It seemed so WRONG, but it made me laugh. DM finally asked why 69 and not 70 (or even 75). So I sped up to 70 and the car started shaking. I've apparently got a tire unbalanced somewhere and 70 was just enough to make it very uncomfortable. They didn't rag me anymore after that.
The closer we got, the more nervous/anxious/excited Z got. He was laughing a little too loudly and talking non-stop. He's never been away from us for more than a night or two and it was always with someone he knew well. This was CAMP. Sleep-away for a week. With strangers. I imagine that in his mind it was kind of scary.
But this particular camp is special. It's affiliated with the church and I've never heard of anyone who had a bad time there. When we arrived, we went to check in in the gym. And standing in line right in front of me was an old friend from my EYC days. She was bringing her daughter, who was the same age as Z. We made introductions all the way around and now Z knew at least one person who would be at camp. That's how it begins.
After registration, we found his cabin, took his stuff in and helped him make his bunk. There was another kid sitting on the bunk opposite. I introduced myself and Z and he responded with his name (Bronson). He was very quiet and I think he and Z were both feeling a little shy and out of their depth. But as soon as the bed was made, Z told us we could go. DM and I gave him a little hug and walked out of the cubicle. I stopped to stick his sheet bag into his suitcase and he came around the corner and gave both of us fierce hugs, whispered "I love you" and "Thanks!" Then he disappeared back around the corner to rejoin Bronson.
It was a quiet drive home. DM and I were both lost in our own ruminations. It wasn't just Z's first time away from home, but our first time without him since he'd been born. Usually when there's travel happening, it's either me or DM and the other stays home with Z.. Or Z goes somewhere with one of us. But he's always with one or the other of us and now... he wasn't with either one of us. It was a little unnerving.
And it was our first time alone together since he was born. Strangely, it was kind of awkward at first but after a while, we fell back into being us instead of Mom and Dad. It was reassuring to know that we could still talk to each other and be with each other without him around. After all, it won't be long before he leaves us for good. This is just the first step.
This summer, we've been working on independence. Doing things for himself. Spending time on his own. Learning to take care of his own stuff. But this is the first separation. The first apron string to be cut.
It's a good thing my apron has many, many strings.