I've sent my oldest son off to week-long Scouts camps three times now, plus a 5 day camp for military kids. Each time, it has gotten easier to say goodbye. Of course, the little worrier voice in my head will try hard to remind me of natural disasters striking Scouts, but I've not been too concerned with the boy himself having fun or not.
Of course, each of these camps, he went along with kids he knew. And trusted adults helped him through that first camp that began a few weeks after his dad deployed. Between homesickness and missing his dad, it was a tough one.
Yesterday, I drove him out to a vocations camp our diocese is having. Even though he didn't know anybody else going, I was sure he'd do just fine. He is a reserved boy, but he is also extremely likeable. All he needs is the invitation to be included in some activity and he'll jump in and be a great team player.
But still, not knowing anybody made him nervous. It would make me nervous too. I've gone to conferences and talks alone, and wondered if I'd have anybody to talk to, if anybody would let me sit at their table during lunch, if anybody would recognize me as that obscure mom-blogger with the stupidest blog name ever...typical middle-school worries, which are appropriate for my 13 year old son, but less understandable in a 40 year old woman.
Poor kid complained of headaches and stomachaches all week long as yesterday approached. It was a 3 hour drive, and we stopped for lunch. He ate 2 bites of his sandwich and then put his head down, a sure sign that the kid is full of angst. After signing him in and dropping off his gear, he was pointed in the direction of the basketball courts where a dozen young men were playing pick up games. I watched him slowly drag himself in that direction. I took my time in the van, setting my GPS for home, firmly buckling my seat belt, making sure all the kids were set and had no pressing needs. I backed up and headed out, watching my son's progress toward the courts. I saw him tentatively step onto the surface and wait for a welcome, an invitation to join a group. 5 seconds...10 seconds...15 seconds...and then I had to choose: stop the car like a worried mother hen and make sure that my little boy had playmates before I left for home, or continue down the drive where he was out of sight and trust that somebody would notice him soon and include them in their game.
With a lump in my throat, I drove on, leaving him to make his own niche in that corner of the world.
He's fine; I know he's fine.
But with this child, my oldest, I am learning that growing up is as much about me becoming an adult as it is about him maturing.