Yep. I Cried.

That’s me on the left

The year was 1992.  I had my Umbro checked shorts, two pairs of Keds, a Saved By the Bell inspired sleeping bag, and a pillowcase my mom had sewn for me.  No worries that I didn’t really know the super-shy partner I had been assigned, thanks to a pair of inseparable besties in my GA group.  I didn’t care.  I was heading to CAMP!

It was just as glorious as all the big girls said it would be.  The songs, the mountains, the pool, taps at night, counselors that doted on us, Poptarts for breakfast…..all of it.  Unlike many girls my age, including my assigned bunk-mate, I don’t think I spent one second being homesick.  It was way too fun for that.

Summer after summer I found myself back there.  I got called Haley Mills for my Parent Trap haircut.  I learned songs that I still sing to my kids when they are dragging on a hike.  I met Jesus there.  I got my first job there.  Actually, working at camp is the only job that I’ve ever had except teaching.  I learned hard life lessons there.  I became brave there.  Eventually, during our years on full time staff, we started our family there.

So all of that to say I had some unexpected mom emotions well up in me this week as I helped Chica prepare for her first week away at overnight camp.  Something like fear mixed with sadness mixed with worry mixed with get-yourself-together-she’ll-be-fine.  I can distinctly remember my reaction to moms who stuck around just a little too long when they dropped their kids off at camp:  “When my kid gets big enough to go to camp, I will not be doing that mess.  I will drop her off and go.  Not try to make her bed for her, not cry, NOT baby her.  Moms like that just make it worse.”

Except that day came today, and it didn’t go like that exactly.  I did not make her bed, and I did not cry in front of her.  Actually, I didn’t even hug her goodbye for some reason.  But as she stood up on the steps and introduced herself to everyone, I bit my lip willing the tears not to come.  I saved them, but only until I was back in the car.  

I stared here at the cursor for a few minutes trying to think of exactly where the tears came from.  The tears came from so many places.  Thoughts of my mom getting me ready for camp and wondering if she felt all the same things.  Realization that a week will go by where I won’t remind her to brush her hair, and she’ll be just fine.  Hope that she’ll find a friend who gets her and will make the week that much more fun.  Knowing that having experiences apart from us, from me, is what growing up is made of.  Jay joked when I got home that “even stone-cold Tracy” cried.  Yep.  And I’m owning it this time.  

Have a glorious week, Chica!

I Needed the Pep Talk

“This. This is why I write. Because even a half-written, well-intended dispatch from a southpoint in time is better than a vague, distant memory evaporating into the Heavens.” Charlie Capen

I have a confession to make. Actually, I have about ten to make from this day, but let’s start at the beginning:

I was more nervous about Day One of soccer camp than she was.

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I had checked and rechecked the list of things we were supposed to bring.  I lathered on the sunscreen extra thick.  We completed at least three pep talks about not giving up and being a good sport.  Who knew I would be the one needing the real pep talk?

I’m still not sure what I was so fearful of.  I guess mostly that she would do her melting routine the second that she missed a ball or even felt like she might miss a ball.  I so want her to be tough.  Resilient.  Determined.  Persistent.  But she’s just not there yet.  She’s sensitive and tentative (and also stubborn!) and needs someone over and over to help her pick up the puddle and remind her, push her, to keep going.

So Bubba and I sat on the sidelines and chatted it up with one of those moms that makes it look easy.  After a few minutes, Chica ran off to join her coach, carrying her soccer ball (yeah…she’s real new).  Deciding it was now or never, Bubba and I made our exit.  And as we drove to our “something-fun-to-do-while-sister-is-at-soccer-camp” destination, I apologized to all of those mommies that I had judged:

To the mom who had to walk her kid up to the cabin on summer camp drop off day when she was supposed to say goodbye at the bottom of the hill, I’m sorry.  I get it now.

To the mom who came to class to help her (big) kid unpack on his first day in a new school, I’m sorry.  I get it now.

To the mom who’s afraid to leave her kid in the nursery with a sea full of faces she doesn’t know, I’m sorry.  I get it now.

I think each of those mommies just needed her own pep talk too:  You’ve done your very best to prepare her for whatever lies ahead.  And if when she screws up, the adults around her will remember that she is, in fact, only 6 (or 2, or 10, or however old).  They won’t be thinking about you, Mom.  They’ll be thinking about how to get her back on track, and it will happen.  And she’ll remember to go to the bathroom, and she’ll make a friend or three, and she’ll. be. fine.

So she was fine.

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And the report I got from her is that soccer camp was “fun” and she did “pretty good” in in the not giving up department.  Turns out, as best as I could gather from her, that this means she sat out a few times because she was afraid of losing, but there were no tears involved.  Over lunch I was working hard to convince myself that this, in fact, was a victory, when she came out of nowhere to tell me that she shared her snack with a friend who didn’t like what his mom had packed.

Thank you, Chica, for reminding me that being tough and resilient and determined and persistent isn’t the only goal.  I admire your generous heart.

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So I began by saying that I had about ten more confessions to make from this day.  I’m out of time for details, but here are the other nine:

2.  I asked Jay if swimming in the pool could count as a bath for the kids.  He said no.  I’m still going with yes.
3.  I ate more Hot Tamales today that I care to count, each time digging into the bag stashed in the cabinet hoping that the kids wouldn’t notice.  I think I have a problem.
4.  I’m trying hard to limit the amount of time my kids spend in front of a screen, but I don’t follow those same rules myself.  Not cool.
5.  I got all kinds of aggravated at Chica because she continues to show no interest in learning how to swim for real.  Scary Mommy made an appearance at the YMCA this afternoon.
6.  This afternoon I worked on sorting and throwing out kindergarten papers that came home on the last day of school.  I’ve learned the hard way to burry this kind of thing in the trashcan several layers deep.  (This one is barely a confession…doesn’t every mom do this??)
7.  Bubba was more fun this morning without Chica.
8.  I bribed Chica to do housework with Hot Tamales.  I’m not sure if I mentioned this part to Jay when he thanked me for all the work I got done today….
9.  I bought Bubba a pair of shoes even though he said they didn’t fit right.  I’m over it.  After trying on 15 pairs with no luck, I finally decided he didn’t know what he was talking about.
10.  Err….I actually can’t think of a tenth.  But ten sounded better than nine, so I left it.  I lied. Sorry.

Don’t Look Down (Or Around, Or Up, Or Anywhere, Really)

Tomorrow during stations I’ll give my kids 15 minutes to write about the overnight field trip we enjoyed this week.  I thought I’d give it a try myself.  I have way more than 15 minutes worth of stuff to say, but I’m hitting “publish” at 9:40.  Go!

…and I’ve already wasted five of my 15 minutes looking for just the perfect way to start.  Of course.

So let’s just skip straight to the best part.  The Alpine Tower.  It’s this crazy cross between a climbing tower and an obstacle course.  I watched probably 20 kids go ahead of me, and a few determined ones made it to the top.  It was time to go to lunch, but one of the super-cool counselors said I could still climb.  I guess that’s one of the perks of being a teacher….like skipping ahead of students in the lunch line.

I climbed the first stair section with no problem, and then came to the point where I had watched more than one student lose their confidence.  This was going to be much harder than it looked from the ground.

Since I have only two more minutes until my self-inflicted deadline, I’ll spare you the details and get to the point.  It was hard.  I don’t usually get too scared on these types of things, but today I did.  My students would repeatedly give each other the routine advice, “Don’t look down,” but I decided that’s not enough.  It seemed to me that if I looked up or down or out or anywhere other than right in front of me, I started to doubt that I had it in me to reach the top.

And thanks to many, many years of debriefing training at camp, I couldn’t help but draw the parallel to the everyday.  Sometimes the task or path in front of you (or above, in this case) is way too overwhelming to see all at once.  And that’s why it’s so perfect that in those times, only tiny next steps get revealed, one at a time….

Put your right foot on that cable.

Spend this next 30 minutes reading a book to your kid.

Now reach for the rope ladder.

Write that e-mail you’ve been thinking about all day.

Sit down on the edge.

Don’t worry about that, and just go to bed.

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So I made it to the top.  Myself and a rather spindly little girl in my class actually made it at the exact same moment.  We air high-fived each other on the platform, and felt oh-so-full of ourselves all the way to lunch.

To end, I must make one correction that I have figured out only now:  You have to look down.  You have to look down because the guy with the rope and the directions and the view of the whole big tower is down there.  You have to make eye contact and listen to hear that next tiny step.

I know I’m not ready for the whole big plan, but I’m feeling a renewed sense of need to look more often in the direction of the One who’s got the rope and the view.  Time to start making some eye contact and listening.

Oh, and an hour and 15 minutes later, I think I figured out that 15 minutes won’t be enough time for my students to write about our trip either.  It was that good.