A short-lived smile, by the flower garden next to her cabin. Cosmos always remind me powerfully of my maternal grandmother, Nana, and given the proximity of them to Grace’s cabin, I like to think she’s watching over her great-granddaughter at camp.
Right before the final goodbye. Right before I took this, he looked at me and said “after this you are leaving, really?” nervously. I nodded, and we took the photograph. I don’t know if you can see his apprehension in his eyes.
Last Thursday we dropped Grace and Whit at camp for 3.5 weeks. This is her 5th summer and his 3rd. I know, I know, I’m a broken record, but seriously? It feels like we just took her for her first summer a week ago, so how is this possible? As usual, I drove away in tears, and as usual, my heart was heavy for days after leaving them at camp. Not because I doubt they’ll have fun, not because I worry about their safety or joy while away from me. Not at all because of other of those. Not even specifically because I’ll miss them, though I will.
But, mostly, the sorrow is due to the realization that I am already here, already at this point teetering on the edge of something very new and very scary, already at the day that many more years with children at home flutter behind me, like prayer flags in the wind, than do ahead of me.
Grace was weepy at drop off. Truthfully, it was the hardest camp goodbye yet. Well, maybe not harder than the first time, when she was 8. But I was a bit taken aback by how sad she was, and by how hard it was to walk away. Part of that was because we were early and many of her friends hadn’t arrived yet. Part of it was just because she seemed to be in a cabin without counselors she knew. And part of it is probably just because of this particular moment in life, which is marked by closeness and intimacy which both makes me anxious (should I worry?) and glad (I am grateful for our bond).
Within 24 hours I had decided, though, that it’s all fine. Maybe it is better this way. Perhaps the benefit of camp is not in spite of her finding it challenging this year but because of it. That was quite a flip of attitude for me and it felt like something heavy had been lifted. Yes. Precisely this: the discomfort may be what makes it so valuable. The uneasiness and tears speak to the growth.
On Tuesday night before we left, I tucked Whit in. He was quiet and visibly wistful. I flicked the light off and climbed into his narrow bed next to him and whispered, “It’s almost time for camp. How do you feel about that? Excited? Sad?” He swallowed and, staring up at the slats of the bunk above him, said quietly, “Both.” I looked at his profile in the faint glow of the Bruins zamboni night light Grace gave him for Christmas, and it occurred to me that’s how I feel about camp too. And, actually, it’s how I feel about every new vista of this parenting journey. It’s how I feel about life itself: excited and sad at the same time.
Excited and sad at the same time. Always. The goodbyes and the hellos keep coming fast and furious, inextricably wound together.
21 thoughts on “Excited and sad at the same time.”
Oh, Lindsey. I feel like I was just reading your last letter about sending the kids off to camp, but that was a whole year ago. I can imagine it’s very bittersweet. But the gift you’re giving them of exploration and freedom and the chance to make their own decisions and mistakes. It’s all so valuable and important. I hope I can do the same for mine when they’re old enough. And I know I’ll remember your words. I’m sure I’ll be both excited and sad at the same time. xoxo
Can’t speak, only nodding with tears.
Excited and sad, and everything in-between. Lately, it seems true grace lives in the full welcome, or at least acceptance, of both. You do it beautifully.
Oh, this sounds like a hard day for all of you. I hope you get some reassuring letters soon!
Oh, this line: “the day that many more years with children at home flutter behind me, like prayer flags in the wind, than do ahead of me.” This is the point that scares me, too, that makes me feel the most bittersweet. The moment I’ve been waiting for, the freedoms I desire, and the quiet that will no doubt be striking in its loudness.
My kids are younger, and my oldest – age 7 – always had a hard time separating, more than most kids it seemed, and I can’t imagine her at sleep away camp ever, but who knows how she will shift and change in the future? I think you’re onto something that camp will be beneficial this year because of the challenge. For you both.
Thank you so much. Yes, the years are whipping past me astonishingly quickly and the old adage that things speed up as you get older is proving to be entirely (distressingly) true. xoxox
How I feel when I read much of your writing. xox
Thank you, thank you. I’m not sure I do, but I love how you say it – accepting both. Yes. xox
Thank you! Got a wonderfully reassuring postcard from Whit today and 3 somewhat sorrowful letters from Grace. xox
I hope you’re right. I hope I am! xoox
Oh, Lindsey. Choking up with giant tears. Sadness and joy always together. I feel the thrum of this everyday. xo
Beautiful truths as always.
Me too. xox
Thank you! xox
Ugh! Excited and sad at the same time really sums it all up. All the time I feel those things together and it is so confusing! I can’t believe it was 5 years ago that Caroline was there with Grace. Just the other day she started wishing she had stuck with camp. What year will the girls be next year? Wondering about sending her back to CCSC vs. starting somewhere else if it feels too late to send her back…
I love how brave you are and recognizing that discomfort is so good for our kids now, when they have a safe home to come home to and so much support. And yet, it’s excruciating to allow them these life experiences.
Oh this is all so bittersweet. Oliver at almost 10 is a different and moody kid and as he approaches his first day of a new school we were just talking about being excited and sad and scared and happy. How confusing and beautiful it all is and how most of life is like this. Thank you for sharing these moments and helping me understand my own.
Yes!! Send her back!! xoxox
Bittersweet, confusing, and beautiful – life itself in an nutshell. xox
Yes, yes, yes…excited and sad as they grow up and away, trying to remember to delight in the now and be happy that what they’ve learned from me will help guide them into becoming beautiful humans.
I recently talked to a colleague about traveling for work, which we both do frequently. She reminded me that not everyone gets to know what it’s like to miss their kids and for their kids to miss them. And that it’s important to do some things in work or life that separate us from our family for a time, but ultimately we appreciate each other more for it. This reminded me that we are lucky, and also that it doesn’t make goodbye less poignant – only more so!
Such a good reminder! I agree. xoxo
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