Tomorrow marks the one-week anniversary of your having left for sleep away camp for the very first time. When you left I didn't cry. I'm generally stoic like that, so it wasn't so surprising.
I did however walk around for a few days with a funny feeling in my stomach because I didn't know what every minute of every day is like for you at Indian Head. The only way I could even glimpse into knowing was to scour the photo website for smiling pictures of you. Pictures of you doing fun things. Pictures of you with other campers with your arms slung around each other because you were the best of friends.
Of course, I recognize that this is unrealistic. Nobody becomes best friends overnight. It takes time and "bonding" experiences for that to happen. Intellectualizing didn't help the pit in my stomach. In fact, it made it worse when I stopped to think about how you might be doing at any given moment. You, my emotionally brilliant son who over-analyzes every interaction (in other words, you are just like me). Who could take a meaningless glance from another kid as something meaningful.
I waited for "the call", when the camp director calls each parent of a new camper with the news that "hey, your kid is doing great here!" I waited with a giant hole in my stomach after my friend who also had a son starting this year at IHC got her thumbs up call and I hadn't. Did that mean that you were taking longer than normal to adjust? That you were sitting in a corner with your head in your hands, supremely unhappy and wondering why I had sent you there? Did you do something outlandish and weird to stand out and make an impression on your bunkmates only to have them brand you as the outlandish and weird kid? Oh Alex, growing up is so hard. I am constantly amazed not only at your bravery, but by the bravery of all children.
Then Joel called. And he said that you were off to a great start. He used child psychology speak and told me that you were "exhibiting all the right markers for adjustment." My favorite was that he told me in conversation with you that you said so far camp was a "9.5 on a scale of 1 to 10". What I love about that comment is that it is so uniquely Alex. So filled with your demand for perfection and for believing that absolute perfection is not achievable. So a 9.5 from you is basically like saying camp IS perfect.
An audible sigh. The pit in my stomach has magically disappeared. And yes, I still stalk the IHC photo website for pictures of you. The weird thing is (and this is where the title of this post comes in) now that I know you are okay, I am not really missing you as much. I have always been an out of sight, out of mind kind of person. Whenever I move to a new place, I have the ability to move on and find a new group of people to be my friends. But I never imagined that they same ability to let go in the moment would be true for my own son. (And I suppose it's not 100% true, as I type I wish that I could be hanging out with you because I am intensely thinking about you.) The summer that I had imagined without you was one of me sitting in your room, looking at your things and pictures of you and pining away waiting for you to come home. Instead, I am eagerly awaiting our call next week and visiting day the week after and wondering if we will have things to discuss or if when I ask you about your day that you will reply "fine" and to what did you do today you will reply "stuff" just like you always do. Stuff like whatever is going on in this camp photo with whoever these kids are (hopefully they will be your life-long friends and PS you need either a hat or sunglasses, dude!)
Alex, my greatest wish is that we will always remain strongly connected. That even when you live far away that we will talk about both the important and the mundane regularly.
I love you so much,