My heart is racing just thinking about it. My baby girl, just 11 years old, is going to sleep-away camp. Being away at camp is a glorious and magnificent time and experience in the lives of children. It allows them to disengage from their daily routine and responsibility and go to an oasis of freedom, where children are encouraged to laugh, have fun, and appreciate the outdoors. I have every confidence that my little girl will have the time of her life. She is so very much looking forward to this experience, and she’ll be spending the time with many of her friends.
As parents with young children, we spend the majority of our day making sure that our children are safe. We protect them from the slightest nuance of discomfort. We seek to buffer any pain or complexity they may experience. When my children are with me, even when they are sleeping and the doors are locked and we’re all safe, I find myself waking up several times during the night just to make sure that they are tucked in safely, and sleeping comfortably. I never understood the meaning of the saying “sleeping with one eye open” until I experienced it firsthand. The slightest bristle of the trees outside, and I am up out of bed, making sure that the children are safe and sound.
Divorce brings with it a whole suitcase of complexity. It’s a maze of daily challenges that one has to learn to navigate and master. Often when we walk the street, even though my daughter is a “big girl”, I hold her hand and keep her close to me, cherishing those special moments of the father-daughter relationship. Children are a blessing from God, but daughters are the icing on the cake. So as happy as I am that my little girl is off to sleep away, to have what will surely be a fantastic experience, the knowledge that I will not see her for at least four weeks, will be challenging for me. It’s ironic that we invest so very much in our children. The sweat and tears that we experience in raising the most beautiful beings God has ever put on this earth, and all for one purpose: for the day that they will fly away on their own wings, as graceful, grounded, and healthy human beings.
Living through divorce, all losses are magnified, even the slightest ones. Studies show that the transfer points where children go from one parent to another, even on a regular basis, are still very hard, emotionally on children. I feel that same way about camp. I have every confidence that my daughter will have an amazing experience, however, that does not mitigate how much I will miss her, and how difficult saying goodbye is.
Yesterday, as we were preparing her camp bags, making sure that she had every last item from the camp “master list”, my daughter asked me “Daddy, when you take me to the bus, please don’t cry. You’ll embarrass me.” I smiled, and I promised her that I would not. So, as I go to the bus and hug my little girl, I will hold her tight for an extra second, in lieu of my tears. I will celebrate my young lady, reaching a milestone, and in my heart, I will thank Hashem for his ongoing kindness, for standing with our family at every juncture and turn in our lives. If I shall shed a tear on the way home, that’s just fine, as she will never know, and I will have kept my word.
My little princess is a baby no more, and I am so very proud of her. Her Mom and I have invested wisely, and the return is beautiful and priceless.