I dropped my daughter off at camp last weekend. This was her 9th summer at camp, so it was a familiar ritual. You’d think I’d be used to it. The first time she went she was only seven. A tiny little girl, so brave and willing. She pushed me out of her cabin when I lingered too long, then sent me a letter saying, “I miss you, but not enough for you to come and get me.”
After a while it was routine. Drop her off, enjoy two weeks of childless freedom spent mostly talking about the children we were free of, then go pick her up. This summer, probably her last, it feels different somehow. She’s old. She’s tall and willowy. She looks me in the eye when we stand next to each other. We can communicate with raised eyebrows and gestures and half-spoken words that only people who spend a lot of time with each other can do. Somehow, dropping her off didn’t feel like the two-week vacation it usually is but rather a trial run for something else. A practice for dropping her off at college or her young adult apartment.
She’s really going to leave me. And soon.
Her brother is half gone already. He’s gone for eight weeks this summer, not a quick two hour drive away like she is but across the country. He flies places without me and has plans to go to college no closer than 600 miles from our home. In three months he’ll be old enough to tell me to get bent and move out. I doubt he will, but if he does, there won’t be a thing I can legally do to stop him. He’s rarely home anyway, and when he is, he’s busy.
It’s the way of it, and proof that I’ve done a good job. I’ve always said that my primary obligation as a parent is to make sure that if and when I die, my children should be sad and nothing else. They should be fully functional and able to cope, capable of going on with their lives without me.
I just didn’t think it would happen this fast.
I know, I know. You told me it would. You told me not to blink. Ha ha, I said, blinking away like a fool, blinking away days, months, and years. Wishing away the days when every sentence started with “Mommy” or “Why?” Praying for the end of fluctuating hormonal pubescent mood shifts that made our house feel like an unpredictable (and predictably bad) acid trip.
Now here we are, finally in a place where everyone is settled and housetrained and grand. I love my children, sure, don’t all parents? But I actually like them, too. They’re funny and smart and have interesting things to say. They’re more fun to go see shows at the Fox Theater with than my husband. (Don’t worry, he’s not insulted. He’s actually relieved that I have someone to take that isn’t him.) I like their friends, and when they go, so go their friends. It’s creepy for a middle-aged woman to stay in touch with people less than half her age. I’ll have to stick with stalking their Snapchat stories and Instagrams.
I’m fortunate to have such wonderful children, which of course is easy for me to say when they are both in different states and not at home leaving dishes in the sink and clogging up the toilets. But I am. They’re remarkably healthy and relatively trouble-free, if ridiculously expensive to maintain, and I know that puts me in a category of luck, fortuned, blessedness, or whatever you call it that I need to get on my knees and appreciate. Which I do.
And when I pick my daughter up in a week and a half, I’m gonna hug her in public and tell her loudly how much I love her. In front of her friends. No matter how sweaty and stinky she is and no matter how much much it embarrasses her.
Because it’s important that she knows that.
If you enjoyed this and want to read more like it, visit Lori at her website, www.loriduffwrites.com , on Twitter, or on Facebook. Lori is a National Society of Newspaper Columnists 2018 & 2019 Columnist winner, and a New Apple, Readers’ Favorite, and eLit award winner for her latest release, “You Know I Love You Because You’re Still Alive.” She is also the author of the bestselling books “Mismatched Shoes and Upside Down Pizza,” and “The Armadillo, the Pickaxe, and the Laundry Basket.”