When I was 11, my mother put me on a bus with a bunch of strangers who would soon become my friends. By the time we arrived at camp on Cape Cod, five hours from my home, the butterflies in my stomach had disappeared. After all, I’d found someone else who could blow a bubble inside a bubble with a big wad of gum. And so, I knew that everything would be alright. And for three summers until the camp closed for good, it was alright.
It wasn’t my first time at camp either; I’d been to two other camps beginning when I was nine when I went to my mother’s alma mater, Camp Otsego, in Cooperstown. After two weeks, I called my parents to ask if I could stay another week. And then I did that every week until I ran out of summer.
When the camp closed before the next summer, I went to another camp in the Adirondacks where my cousin was in the boys’ camp. I reported home that he’d cut his bangs himself — diagonally, as though he’d been on a crab fishing boat in the Bering Sea during a winter storm at the time. Otherwise, everything was alright.
So when people ask me how I’m doing since my 12-year-old left for Boy Scouts Camp yesterday — his first overnight camp — I shrug. And then I get annoyed. I keep forgetting that it should somehow concern me that he’s away without me. But here’s the thing:
It’s for just one week with a bunch of kids he knows from home at a camp no farther from our house than many people commute to work every weekday.
When I was at camp, four French Canadian kids who barely spoke English were sent there — to another country — for eight weeks. And they were six-years-old.
Really now. My son can handle it. And so can I.
But every time some well-meaning mom or dad asks me how I’m doing since my son left for camp 24 hours ago, I start to wonder if something is wrong with me. Everyone else seems to think that I should be home wringing my hands, while I simply can’t wait to hear when he returns about how much fun his week was. Bonus: Less laundry while I wait.
We are a protective generation of parents, perhaps sometimes a bit overprotective. And when you don’t fall in line with what other parents are thinking, it can make you wonder if your radar is off.
But when I think back to my days (months) in camp, I remember how stinkin’ fun it was, and then I remember that it’s okay not to worry about my son. He’s a Boy Scout, after all. He’s been trained to live in the woods. Also, he can blow a bubble inside a bubble with a big wad of gum.
Everything, I assure you, will be alright.