A few weeks ago, I took the morning off work to prepare myself for one of the most difficult car rides that I’ve ever experienced as a parent. Packing clothes and preparing the car, my wife, Amy, and I exchanged shocked looks of disbelief. We could barely believe what was happening.
No, it wasn’t a root canal, a visit to the emergency room or a trip to bail a friend out of jail. This was far worse. Our nine-year-old daughter, Abigail, was about to go away to camp for the first time. We were experiencing the continuing process of letting go.
Except for an occasional overnight at Grandma and Grandpa’s, this was to be the first time that Abbey had stayed the night outside of our home. To make matters worse, we knew that we would have no communication with her once we did the drop-off! To say that I was nervous would be a tremendous understatement. I was terrified.
If Abbey was nervous, she didn’t show it. In a stroke of irony, it was Amy and myself whose stress levels rose as we counted the days of camp on the calendar. “Four nights and five days!” we lamented to each other. “What are we going to do?!”
When the big day arrived and the three of us pulled up to the hotel (this camp was mercifully free of tents and bugs), we were greeted by a pair of college-age girls. The tension began to dissipate when Abbey saw how cute they were; one had hair almost as long as Rapunzel’s.
As we unloaded the car, the two girls greeted Abbey by name. Soon our daughter was swept away into a fairyland of long hair and giggling campers while the owner of the club introduced us to the rest of the volunteers. We were impressed that many of these girls and boys had been volunteering for years; some had traveled great distances to be there, and they all seemed to be passionate about their individual roles. In addition to the volunteers, there was a nutritionist on staff to help educate the athletes about healthy eating.
From what we could tell, the camp was very organized. This was a huge relief to Amy, who had spent the previous two days organizing my daughter’s clothes in individual zip-lock baggies, each marked for a specific moment of her time away from us. Abbey, on the other hand, was more concerned with the other campers. All of them seemed to be greeting each other warmly, and Abbey embraced most with a long hug and a warm smile. Amy and I breathed a collective sigh of relief; we knew she was in good hands. Our car ride home was far less stressful.
The camp was run by Elite Stars
, an organization that provides athletic programs for individuals with special needs. Abbey trains for their gymnastics team, which includes some of the country’s top Special Olympics athletes. This camp followed Elite Stars philosophy of training their athletes with dignity while challenging them to reach their highest potential. She spent her days at camp happily training in gymnastics and competitive dance. From what she told us, they “got up early, went to the gym and trained hard!”
Camp ended with a dance and an awards program that put the children’s talents on display. Abbey won two awards for her accomplishments, which have earned a proud place in our house. Judging by her rave reviews, she had a wonderful five days away from home.
I suppose that goes to show that Amy and I had nothing to worry about … for now. Still, I think our next step is obvious: Preparing for the continuing stages of letting go. I, for one, am not ready to think about a college send off.
Mike is a Clarendon Hills
resident; husband; Indian Princes; Indian Guide Dad; a Coach; an “old” football player and a real estate broker. Mike’s columns are usually crafted about the buzz in and around Clarendon Hills. It sometimes has a spin on real estate or cultural information, highlight a new business or announce school happenings. He might include a “get-to-know” about some of our interesting Clarendon Hills residents and even a little about Clarendon Hills history
. Whatever it is, it is sure to be about the “Talk of the Town”.
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