In just a few short weeks, my 8-year-old daughter is heading to sleepover camp for her very first time.
She is going to the exact same camp I went to at the exact same age that I was.
It is strange to think that she might sleep in the same cabin, perhaps even the same bed, that little me slept in 33 years ago.
My name may still be etched on the cabin wall.
Her upcoming departure has conjured up so many memories for me.
Particularly how much I absolutely hated overnight camp.
I remember my bunkmate was a rich heir to a candy mogul who stole my favourite Levi’s jean shorts.
I remember getting worms – which for 33 years I believed was caused by me doing exactly what my mother cautioned me not to – eating raw Mr. Noodles that I had snuck into the camp (though a recent internet search suggests this was a myth).
I remember many visits to the camp infirmary for many miscellaneous ailments.
I remember breathing into a paper bag because though I didn’t have the words for it back then, I was having a full-blown panic attack.
And most of all, I remember feeling profoundly homesick.
Surely at this point you must be wondering why I would send my daughter to a camp I so deeply despised.
I mean, the thought has crossed my mind that the next generation of rich heirs to a candy mogul may be there and ready to pounce on my daughter’s favourite jean shorts.
Truthfully, it never made sense to me why I hated overnight camp. Adult me craves adventure, nature, fresh air, connection.
Facing my daughter’s upcoming departure has forced me to think more deeply about what was really going on with 8-year-old me that summer.
And then one night, it hit me. My parent’s divorce.
That year, my parent’s marriage dissolved. I worried almost constantly about my mom. How lonely she must have been in that big suburban house by herself. How much she needed my companionship.
I imagined her on a Saturday night, watching tv all alone, and it made me feel so sad.
Eight-year-old me wasn’t homesick because I was without my mom, but because my mom was without me.
So I’ve shared none of this with my daughter.
Because like me, she also loves everything camp has to offer.
But I won’t pack Mr. Noodles or her favourite jean shorts, just to play it safe.
On July 2, I will swallow my complicated emotions, send her off with an obnoxiously overbearing hug and know that she is going to have the time of her life.
And if she doesn’t, that’s ok too.