I was five minutes into my on-line yoga class, when I heard a tiny voice through the monitor.
Some days, I’m grateful for the excuse to halt my practice, but today was not one of those days. Both body and mind yearned to spend the rest of that hour downward dogging and warrior posing, but today, her park district counselors were expecting her.
Autumn and I share a love-hate of camp. I love that I get a few hours to take Tod to the dog park, write, and do laundry and yoga. I hate that the opportunity cost is time with Autumn. She loves that she gets ownership of something – her backpack, her place, her experiences. She hates that the opportunity cost is time with Mommy. And I blame this love-hate for our Tuesday-Thursday quandaries. After all, camp is, at times, negotiable.
Once, she overslept, and I didn’t wake her.
Another time, the air was bad, and I didn’t take her.
A different day, she didn’t want to go, and I didn’t make her.
I explain often that sometimes, we have choices, and sometimes we don’t, because I think it’s an important life lesson, and also because I want to maintain control over our schedule. And after the hecticness of our yesterday, in the best interest of us both, camp today was not debatable.
I entered her room to find Autumn like an ocean breeze, refreshing and calm. She’s a flurry of information – about sounds she heard and dreams she had. We discuss swapping her paci for a Peppermint Patty, the bath she’ll have later, and how that afternoon, we’ll blend our brown bananas into muffins for Papa. The talk is small, building into the big reveal that today won’t be all Golden books in Mommy’s lap and washing rocks in her mud kitchen, but also story time in a circle and Ms. Jackie in the large motor room.
“And so, after camp,” I say nonchalantly, finishing the sentence with something inconsequential as the c-a-m-p lingered, polluting the air like the stench of wet dog.
I am sitting against the wall on one side of her room, she is facing me four feet away.
“I don’t want to go,” she muffles behind her pacifier, her eyes welling. She runs into my outstretched arms, and with the force of her body, my head smacks against the wall.
Now I, too, am crying. The knock was hard, but it was the tightening strings in my chest that hurt more. And as we sat there, dead weight – but never more alive – I thought this:
Why does it all have to be so hard? Why can’t I love letting her go, and why can’t she love going? Lately, I’m drowning in the River Difficult, perhaps someone, somewhere finding humor in the ridiculous irony…Reading “Simplicity Parenting” has complicated so many decisions…planning a relaxing trip with friends has taken such enormous energy…teaching Autumn to find her calm has been so intense.
And then, I breathe deeply, and remind myself of this:
Toys can remain on the floor – or get shelved. The Airbnb can be on the beach – or near a pool. Autumn will blow up – and consequently, learn to simmer down. I think about how all of these things I judge as hard, can just as simply be deemed soft.
After our cuddle and my decision to consciously ease up on my perspective, we flowed through the morning, choosing clothes, munching cereal, and packing up.
That afternoon, after camp but before naptime, we huddled close. I thought of her at the drop-off, the way she attempted a quick get-away, but turned back for her water bottle and revealed quiet tears. I became her mirror, because who can be happy when their child is so sad? But then I recalled the words she spoke at pick-up.
“I love camp.”
I said, “Remember that for next time.”
And I tell myself the same.