The discussions about sleepaway camp started in our family during the quarantine. My eldest daughter, now age 11, came to us with the idea when we were all stuck inside and feeling isolated.
We did some research and looked ahead to the summer of 2021, and as the school year progressed along, we were hopeful that summer camp was on the horizon.
Initially, I was hesitant in sending her away to sleepaway camp, but when I saw her face brighten and a big smile appear when we looked at pictures and read about the various activities, I knew I should let her go.
We agreed that we needed quality time as a family during the summer too. We had to carve out time to travel and visit extended family and spend some restful days all together. We chose a camp that would allow her to go for just short of four weeks. We debated about two weeks, but I knew my daughter could handle the lengthier stay. I figured I would learn to adjust to her being gone.
The school year flew by, and it was a strange year for us with a mix of remote school, in-person school, and homeschool with my preschool-aged son.
As we prepared for my daughter’s elementary school graduation, the reality of her growing up hit me hard.
Attending her fifth-grade graduation left me in tears, both of joy and sadness. I was flooded with memories of carrying her in a baby carrier to daycare, of holding her hand at the playground, of her baby voice that used to flutter through our hallways.
I could not remember the turning point with all of the memories: how did she go from a toddler to a little girl to a mature and independent young girl moving into middle school?
And now, with school ending, I was about to send her away to be even more independent and to find her way through new friendships and experiences without us for almost a month. The separation has proven to be more difficult than I anticipated.
While it is still early in the timeline of her absence, the following are some reflections I’ve had so far:
First, no matter how we all feel at the end of this experience, I am so thankful that we had some quality time together in the days leading up to her departure. Our mother-daughter bond strengthened as we slowed down from our hectic schedule, took time to be together, and have deep conversations.
We spoke about everything from how she feels about entering middle school to her friendships, what she loves most about school, and what she looks forward to most in her future. These moments were so precious to me, and I will remember them always.
Second, we write to each other almost every day. My daughter also exchanges letters with her younger siblings. Letter-writing is almost like a lost art form these days, and I love the ability to express my thoughts to her this way and for her to do the same. It also forces me to say more about how I feel and what we are experiencing than I would say in a conversation because there is more time to think about what I express. I am thankful for this.
Another important reflection to note is the special moments I am spending with my two younger children.
My middle child is now in the role of the “biggest” sister, at least temporarily. She has more responsibilities but also extra attention devoted to her. I think this is important for her self-confidence and growth. Missing her older sister is hard, but she has stepped up and cared more for her four-year-old brother.
Also, I have special time with each of them and appreciate this time even more than I used to. The dynamic has changed between the two youngest positively, and I enjoy seeing them play more together.
While I miss my daughter tremendously, the pictures I see every day with bright smiles comfort me.
I know she is happy and making long-lasting friendships. While she is away at sleepaway camp, I will continue to be the best mom I can to all of my kids and look forward to the day we are all together again.