Yesterday at the pool, I waited at the bottom of the waterslide for my oldest to come shooting out the flume. My kids love the waterslide, but are not yet strong enough swimmers to swim to the ladder without help. But that changed yesterday. Erin hit the water paddling like mad. I reached out to put a hand under he belly as usual, but she shouted, "Let go, Mom!" So I let go, and she paddled on, all the way to the pool side. Of course she just had to tell the story to Dad when she got home.
Today I put her into somebody else's SUV with three other kids and sent her off to 4-H camp. I waited around until they were ready to leave. Then I told her goodbye, got in my van, and drove home with tears in my eyes. It is her first time to go to camp. It's her first time to spend a night away from home any place other than grandma's house.
Last night I checked over her bag. She had packed it herself, and there were a few things missing I knew she'd need. A flashlight. A bathrobe. Sunscreen. I tucked in her camera. And I found her swim goggles in the closet -- she'll wish she had those, I thought, and put them in the bag too. This morning she noticed the extra items. "Thanks, Mom," she said. "You're nice."
Sometimes people think that homeschool parents do what we do because we are clingy, or controlling, or overprotective. That we don't want to let our kids be independent and try their wings. That we're avoiding that universal milestone of putting our children onto the school bus for the first time and telling them goodbye. But the truth is that parenting means letting go. It's going to happen sometime, somewhere, some way, regardless of the choices parents make for their family. And it's always bittersweet.
I want my kids to try their wings. But I want to make sure they have roots as well.
Erin's going to have fun at camp. I can't wait to see the pictures.