I signed them up in a fleeting moment of bravery last week, thinking it would be good for H and S to have some organized activity and a new experience. Unlike their mother, I want them to be comfortable trying new things.
The minute I signed them up, I backpedaled.
“Should I cancel it?” I asked my husband in a panic. “They’re only four. They don’t HAVE to go. It’s not like it’s school.”
And as it happens each time we reach a brand-new phase with the girls, I’m overwhelmed. I obsess. Will they be supervised enough? Who are these people, anyway? What if someone is mean to them? What if they don’t make any friends? What if they miss me? What if one of them gets stung by a bee, or gets hurt on the playground? And, I confess, one of my more irrational worries: what if they catch some illness while they’re there? (Yup, I know: it can happen anywhere, and it’s an inevitable part of – well, life.)
I could just keep them home with me and I’ll feel so much better. Somehow, I have this illusion that if I’m with them, they’re safer and everything is under control.
But deep down, I won’t really feel better because I know that worse than anything else is the idea of passing this fear onto them. I can’t stand the thought of taking away my daughters’ innocent curiosity and enthusiasm. I know they’ll love playing with other kids their age, doing crafts, playing outside. The change of scenery.
When we got to camp this morning, H and S held hands on the way in, skipping across the parking lot. We passed a boy crying and clinging to his mom. With her arm around him, she was watching him expectantly, waiting for him to say he was ready to go. I held my breath as we rounded the corner to the girls’ assigned room. A bunch of kids were sitting at a table, coloring quietly. H and S stood there and looked up at me. I looked at them. I told a counselor their names, and handed her the paperwork and snack bags.
“Do I need to do anything else?” I asked.
“I think you’re all set,” she said.
“They should be okay, because they have each other,” I said.
And suddenly, I knew that I’d better hurry up and leave before I changed my mind. Again. Or worse, before I cried in front of everyone like I did on their first day of preschool.
I kissed the top of the girls’ heads and said, “Have fun!” in my most convincing this-is-totally-awesome voice. I put my sunglasses back on while I was still inside – and bolted.