Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Trail blazer

In the big group photo the parents were trying to grab as the fourth grade was about to get onto the yellow school bus taking them to an "Oregon Trail" overnight camp, some kids were hanging on each other, or arms slung around shoulders, or triumphant fists in the air, or some splayed out in the front on their sides.

My kid was hiding in the back.

He let his serious, furrowed browed face appear in one that I caught but in the rest, he purposely stood in the back where no one could see him.

A few minutes before, the cabin groups were called out.  There are a lot of athletic boys in this class, and two groups in particular let out loud cheers and fist pumps and high-fives when they found out they'd be together in a cabin with one of their dads.  It was all very bro-tastic.  Funny how that starts as early as fourth grade.  That herd mentality.  That thing of the strong and loud grouping together to the exclusion of the quiet watchers.

When my son's cabin was announced, it was just quiet.  All the boys in his group like each other but they are definitely not "bros" at all.  They are not the team sport guys, though a couple of them are on teams.  My son is in a friendship rut with one of the boys in his cabin, and he looked at me in frustration when the announcement was made.  Another kid in their cabin is a good friend of his but also a mama's boy who is nervous about this first overnight away from home.

I watched some of the parents drop their kids off, wish the chaperones well, laugh about the chaos, barely tell their kids goodbye since their kids were the confident ones who had either already done overnight camps or were at the center of the fist-pumping bro culture of fourth grade.  Their kids are the winners.  The ones with no worries.  The ones who climb into bed at night and just fall asleep.

That's not my kid.  My kid lays in bed and night and wants me to lay next to him.  He sprays his stuffed elephant with "peaceful sleep" essential oil spray to help him calm his nerves.  As I lay next to him every night, he asks multiple times what we are going to do the next day.  Sometimes he talks about his recent dreams.  But he never just gets into bed and falls asleep.  Not ever.  Going on an overnight is a huge deal for him.  It's not easy.

I was the same way as a kid, and as I stood there this morning beside the school bus taking my baby away to overnight camp, all the memories of being an outsider in my private school came flooding back.  I was not one of the winners.  I was not one either that just fell asleep at night.  I always stood on the edge of school activities, quietly judging these loud winners and trying to convince myself that I didn't want to be one of them.  I always wished that these events were easy for me the way they were for some kids.

It's not easy for my son.  I know exactly how he feels and managed to hold my tears in until I got into my car.  I had to resist the urge to jump onto the school bus so I could see who he was sitting with for the ride to camp.  He did stand up to wave at me, which I was grateful for.

I came home and started looking through videos of when he first started walking.  My heart is beating hard in my chest, hoping this toddling baby is confident with his other quiet friend who also likes to sleep next to his mom at night.  I hope the two boys build each other up instead of feed into each other's anxiety.

Momming is scary and hard at the best of times, and when you let them go for 36 hours...oy...

We will make it.

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