Yesterday was the Fourth of July, and I spent a good bit of the afternoon cross legged on our daughter’s floor marking her clothing with a Sharpie.
I wrote Jane on her socks, her toothbrush, her beloved skinny jeans and a few tank tops. Then, I sobbed. Not like a little bit either, but the sort of sobs where you stop breathing for a moment and you think you might pass out. The sort of sobs that are typically reserved for a death.
Yesterday it felt like childhood died in my home.
Our daughter left for summer camp this morning. Sleep away summer camp. Summer camp that your Mom is not invited to. Summer Camp where you are responsible for what you wear, what you eat, making your bed and playing nicely with others.
She is fearless. She is ready. She was excited and joyful and fairly bounded out of my husband’s car, and toward the bus that would take her into the mountains of Southern California. The bus that would take her away from us. As she started towards her gaggle of friends I had a horrible realization.
Boys go to camp too.
I ran to catch up to Jane, grabbed her left arm and spun her around to look me in the eye. Her blue eyes sparkled and opened wide. I was panicked, she could sense it.
“Jane, there’s something I forgot to tell you.” I started urgently, “There are boys here, and there are going to be girls and boys holding hands and kissing. You are too young to kiss.”
“Oh Mom,” She began, but didn’t make eye contact with me, “Boys are gross.”
“No Jane, boys are not gross. Boys are wonderful and handsome and smart and they will make you feel wonderful. But you are too young to kiss anyone. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Mom, but really they’re…” she started to say gross, but I interrupted.
“Don’t lie to me Jane. We both know boys are great. Promise me you won’t kiss one.”
“I promise.” She met my eyes.
She ran off to join her friends, and I realized that I’d blown it. I tried to take what should have been months of preparation and cram it into 27 seconds.
Sometimes things like this make me feel like a horrible parent, but after dinner my husband confessed that he had given Jane the “child molester” lecture while taking her to the bathroom, it was just three minutes after I gave her the don’t kiss one. Most often I’m convinced that my husband is the better parent. Today we’re on equal footing. Squarely behind the eight ball.
It’s a quarter to ten and I’m wondering if my daughter is sleeping well. I don’t know what she ate for dinner or if she brushed her teeth before bed. I hope she uses the good sunscreen I packed for her on her face, and the spray on her arms and legs. I worry that she misses me. I worry that she doesn’t.
We’ve closed her bedroom door. We miss her, and although I love that my daughter is maturing into an independent young lady, the worst part of me wants her to need me a little more than she does.