17 September 2007

Are you lonesome tonight?

Three years ago, at the crack of dawn, I sent the son off for his first trip away from home. Every year, the fifth grade class at the children's school goes to spend a week pursuing "outdoor education." I'm one of the troublesome parents who regards this particular program as a) an insane waste of money given what I'm already spending to send the kinder to private school, b) a random attempt to separate me from my children even earlier than everyone is already trying to, c) dangerous, unnecessary, and did I mention insane?, and d) a good reason to ask my doctor for a prescription for tranquilizers.

Ok, admittedly, this is not Kid Nation, though I worry about the potential for Lord of the Flies. In fact, before the son left, I made sure he'd read Lord of the Flies. Truly, there are 2 teachers and a student services person along as chaperones in addition to the counselors provided by the camp, and they are supposedly supervised in everything, including going to the bathroom.

Overprotective much? Yup, I am. These are my children. They are going to an island. Without my jaundiced and much practiced eye watching everything they do. It pretty much scares me to death.

The daughter left this morning.

I stayed as busy as I could today, helping the spouse do some prep prior to going to court tomorrow, doing some more dread shopping, marketing myself to a potential client (that's the joy of freelancing...having to sell myself), making nice to the former boss, and riding the exercise bike for a furious hour.

We've always joked that the daughter never realized the umbilical cord had been cut. When she was younger, she tended to be quite shy, so shy in fact, that at her grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary party, she dived straight under my skirt so she wouldn't have to talk to anyone. More recently, we took her to a concert and the unbeatable combination of being mere yards from both her favorite musician in the world and her favorite baseball player in the world (who was sitting a few seats away from us) had her clinging to me like a barnacle most of the night. It's never been unusual to find her holding on to my leg, or waist or arm for dear life. She still curls up in my lap in the morning upon awakening.

But she was certainly ready to embark on this adventure.

And I'll admit I was base enough to try to dissuade her from going.

"No, Mommmmmmmmeeeeeeeeeeeee," she replied. "I can't wait to go."

Like the son before her, I suspect that right now, she is so engrossed in the novelty of her sleeping bag and her friends and the prospect of a giant sleepover that she hasn't even realized I'm nowhere in sight. That may come later in the night if she chances to wake up and realize she's not at home, but I truly hope not.

I know it's time for her move a little further from me. She knows it, too.

"If you feel homesick," I told her this morning, "just remember that when you think about me, I'll be thinking about you at exactly the same time."

And it's the truth because I haven't stopped thinking about her all day, and won't through the next four days. Just like the son before her.

What children don't realize is that their childhood is so much harder on us than it is on them.

Go listen to some music: "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" from the album The Essential Elvis Presley by Elvis Presley.