Monday, June 20, 2005
Hey! Where Is Everyone?
It was a strange way to start the Monday after Father's Day. We woke up at 4:15a.m. and by 6:30 the kids were gone........
Camp has now become one of the summer rituals at the Pursuit household, but even in the second year, I just do not see how I am going to get used to it. The funny thing is, that in February when their departure is so far away, Camp actually seems like a great idea. The kids escape to the Northern wilderness where the sun stays up until 10p.m., they swim, go on overnight treks, waterski, shoot 22's the whole package. While they're gone Mrs. P and I get to do the stuff we used to do before kids.
But there we were, misty eyed in the morning putting them on the plane to Minnesota. All of the sudden, it didn't seem like such a good a idea after all. Sure the house will be clean, and yes we're going to have a lot of fun together, but the truth is that we really enjoy having our little buddies around. The arrival of this time of year really comes as a bit of a shock. You see, their 4 week absence is much more than a short time of separation; it is the exclamation mark on our realization that they really don't belong to us.
I don't know how it is with other parents, but at some point early in each girl's childhood I realized that although we named them, and although they carry the combined heritage of their mother's and my families, each girl is a gift from God that we only get to keep for a very short time.
The temptation is to grab them and hold them close. These little perfect creatures are so vulnerable and innocent when they come into the world. As a parent the idea of letting them free to fend for themselves is anathema to all that comes natural to a human being, and frankly, they don't help things much either. Children look up at you as if you're the perfect being. They don't see your flaws, or know what memories you may hold that you may not be particularly proud of. To them you're the omnipotent Dad!
Yet it is this very misconception that quietly lets you know, that you must let them go. Not right away, but gently, over time, gentle pushes must be administered so that they begin to feel confident in their own being, and ironically, less confident in your own perfection. This is the great disillusionment all children experience with their parents, and it is as important to experience as it is painful for the parents to encourage.
For me, it is simply the hardest thing that I have ever done.
Last year was PD1's first trip to camp. At 12 she had been on overnights before, and even spent up to 4 days away from home at a basketball camp which was a full two miles down the road. She was supposed to head up north with a friend from school, but her friend chose at the last minute to go somewhere else.
So, June found us driving north. Her tears the night before we left were tough, but not unexpected. We reassured her that she would be ok, and also let her know that while we would miss her, we would be fine while she was gone. In other words, she shouldn't worry about us. Truthfully, I couldn't believe that we were dumping her in the woods with no friends for four weeks.....but I put on a brave face.
I'll never forget the next day when we arrived at camp. This was where it got tough. PD1 was trying so hard to be brave, and Mrs. P and I made sure we kept our sunglasses on. We pulled into camp, and helped her get her stuff stowed away in the cabin, and then went for the grand tour of the area. We spent a lot of time trying to find reasons to put off the inevitable. Finally, we could stall no longer and it took all my strength to turn and walk away.
Four weeks later we returned to camp, and the cool thing was, all of us had grown a little a bit. Mrs. P and I had been able to spend some solo time with PD2, as well as remember what it was like to be just a pair. PD1 had made friends, learned to do things she had never done before, and in the most bittersweet of developments, she had successfully navigated the first passage in leaving the family to start her own life.
This year, at 10, it is PD2's first trip to camp. She is going with PD1, but we still had tears the night before, Father's Day, and the same reassurances as well. It wasn't a whole lot easier, except that this time we were buoyed by the knowledge that it went well last year.
But the truth is inescapable; they don't belong to us. Our daughters are children of God and the world, and while we get to experience the joy of raising them, we also have the honor and responsibility to let them go.
I prayed for my girls last night. I prayed for the usual things; for God to watch over them while I can't, and for them to have fun and make friends. I prayed for them to grow, and build confidence, and continue to successfully navigate the journey to womanhood.
I prayed for Mrs. P and me. Our children are beginning to discover what we know all too well. We aren't perfect, and to be honest, we're winging the parenting thing. I prayed for God to grant us the wisdom and the judgment to make the right decisions and help them on their way.
I also prayed for the strength to let them go.