Sunday, June 07, 2009

Helicopter Parent

I do not, for the record, consider myself a helicopter parent. I keep close tabs on my kids, sure. I like to think of myself as attentive, involved, and caring. But I don't particularly hover, and I don't freak out when my kids aren't within immediate eyesight or earsight. I've gone away on overnight trips, on scrapbooking weekends with my girlfriends, and on a two-week cruise (sans kids) with Blaine. The kids, in the reverse, have all three spent time away from us on playdates and sleepovers at other kids houses. Give them roots, give them wings, yadda yadda yadda.

All that to say --- Kellen is gone to a three day, two night sleep-away camp at a university away from home, with no way to contact him except in the event of an extreme emergency ..... and I (sniff, sniff) miss him more than I ever thought I would.

I think the difference is that when he spends the night with friends, I know their mothers. I have the knowledge that I can get ahold of him any time I want. Not that I DO, just that I CAN.

At football camp, he is one of six hundred boys, and those counselors don't know him personally. They don't know his name; they don't know anything about him. They don't know that he's using an alarm clock to wake himself up for breakfast for the first time in his life. They don't know that he likes chocolate milk instead of white, they're not going to remind him that I left extra money in his suitcase in case he gets hungry, they're not going to remind him to lock the room behind him when he leaves, they don't know that he's too self-conscious to ask for help if he needs it, and they sure as heck don't care if he remembers to put on the sunscreen I left for him.

Do I think he'll be fine? Yes.

Do I think he'll manage to work the alarm clock and make it to breakfast on time? Yes.

Do I think he's having fun, learning tons about football, and enjoying himself with his friend Chance while they stay in the dorms? Yes, yes, and yes.

But it's breaking my heart just a little bit.

Conversation earlier today:

Me: "It feels weird without Kellen here. I wonder how he's doing. I wonder what he's doing RIGHT NOW. I wonder if he's having fun. I wonder how the practices are going. I wonder how the food in the cafeteria is. I wonder if he misses us, too."

Kendrie: "It does feel weird. Like part of our family is missing."

Brayden: "All I've noticed is how much quieter is it around here."

How on earth will he AND Brayden I survive FIVE DAYS of church camp later this summer??

A large number of the boys attending the camp are day campers, and their parents are responsible for getting the boys to and from practice, and they stay during the practices, also. I figured it couldn't hurt the first day if I stuck around, too, even if Kellen is an overnight camper and I didn't *technically* need to be there. I blended in with the hundreds of other parents ... and it gave me a chance to watch what they were doing .... and whisper goodbye one last time when Kellen ran past me on his way back to the dorms, happy as a clam .....


Pam D said...

Wow. Just wow. You're doing an awesome job of doling out responsibility, Kristie, so that it doesn't hit your kids in one, big, scary lump. Each milestone brings them one step closer to true freedom, but when that comes? They'll be prepared. So, raise your hand up in the air. Now, reach back and give yourself a great big pat on the back!

kimi said...

Ummm, I put my baby (okay he's 14) on a plane on Wednesday for a research trip to Florida. For 5 days. And he's only ever stayed away from home one night. And I'm terrified. Oh and I'm sending his his 12 year old brother to Florida on a youth rally the following week.

I have no idea what I'm doing but thank you for showing me it is possible to survive saying goodbye.


Jacqueline said...

I was just about to ask about church camp when I got to the last is this the first year the kids are going to a church camp?

I think the first time I slept away from home for a significant amount of time was the summer after 3rd grade, at church camp. Now, my best friend is going as a sponsor for our church camp in a week, and I don't know how I'm going to survive without him for 4 days and 3 a different way, I feel your pain.

Sara said...

It's so funny to see the differences between families. I attended boarding school from third grade through twelth grade in Rolle, Switzerland. Of course, I went home (to London, and later, Chicago) over Christmas, spring break, and the summer, but for the most part I was very independent. I absolutely adored being on my own, and am still so thankful that I was able to have such an amazing experience - I credit much of my current success to my old school.

Neither of our kids attend boarding school (at least not yet), but we have been sending them to summer camp for two months since the summer after second grade. I also send them on their own to visit relatives in Europe. Still, I am worried that they are too reliant on me and are not learning how to be independent.

It's nice to get a different perspective. Thanks, Kristie.

RSMDianne said...

Kristie, two of my kids have been going away to summer camp the summer after they finished second grade. And their big rite of passage was the first time they flew by themselves to grandma's house in Las Vegas (from Orange County - only 45 minutes). *And I let my 10 yo dd ride her bike on the paved path alone to her friends house about 1/2 mile away (she does have a cell phone, just in case). I totally believe teaching them to be independent at a young age is so important - they are cautious, but I have friends whose 12 year olds are too shy/scared to go to the counter at McDonalds to place their order without mom at their side. You're a great mom.

Renee said...

Kristie, Oooh, that made my heart hurt a little. I feel your pain!

M. McDaniel said...

You know, being part of Camp Sunshine has really given me an amazing perspective of both sides. I know parents worry about their kids, especially when the child is either on treatment or has physical limitations from treatment, but to see how WONDERFUL of a time they are having really makes me thankful that I'm a volunteer. I never take for granted that parents trust us to be their eyes and ears for 7 long days! He'll have an amazing time, and be ready for church camp around the corner!


Mandy McMahan said...

That last sentence you wrote made me tear up a bit. Good thing my daughter has many, many years before she goes away like that. I need to prep myself for that like, starting NOW, so I'm ready to deal with it. James and I are going on a cruise later this month, sans Emma, so that will be a first taste of five days in a row without my sweet child. Makes my stomach flip just thinking about it. I've never been without her overnight. I need to get with the program and deal with it, huh?

cakeburnette said...

too cool! Austin is up at UGA doing the exact same thing! Only, they aren't required to keep up with their money or get themselves up with an alarm clock. Interesting, no? :)

Karen - Mommy to four sweeties said...

I know exactly how you feel. 3 out of my 4 kids are away at church camp now for 4 days. I miss them so much more than when they are away at Grandparents houses for the summer. I can't wait for them to return!

Anonymous said...

Doesn't letting them spread their wings bring bitter-sweet feelings. My dad wants the boys to fly to see them this summer (big boys that is) and I don't think this will happen. That being said, we are letting Jacob ride his bike to swim practice with friends (even by himself some days). Of course, this means we had to give in and get another cell phone. He was so excited about that that he is not even complaining about the fact that he has my cute pink one with a nice pink floral case and I got the up grade. He doesn't know that he is getting a new one for graduation next week. He is such a good sport. We considered a sleep away camp this year as well, but I just was not quite ready for it (it was a week long...not to mention really exspensive!). Maybe next summer. I started in Jr High, surely We (haha...I) will be ready by then. How much fun is Kellen having (even if it is football and not soccer..hahah)! :) Kim

Laura in Michigan said...

The worst smell I ever smelled was a busload of boys coming home from summer camp..... all 60 of them and surely not a shower the entire time they were there. Looked like the whole group of them were in the same clothes that we parents sent them in. But the smiles.....