My oldest son, who is eight, left for sleep away camp this morning. I was never concerned about him being sad or missing home because he is so independent, very mature and never looked back from the day he started pre-school.
Even though he is only away for a week, what would life be like without him? I would be kept very busy with my other two boys, ages six and three, but already feel like part of me is missing, which it is. The one who I was worried about was me, but I am happy to report that I have let my excitement for the adventure my son is about to experience override my sadness towards his absence.
Little did I know it was someone else I needed to be concerned with. Upon putting my middle son to bed tonight, he started to cry hysterically and tell me he didn’t want to sleep alone. Since he and his older brother share a room, I can understand the emptiness he is feeling. It was deeper than that though. He expressed how much he missed his brother and wanted him to come home. He even put a picture of the two of them next to him so he could see his face.
Wow. I have to admit I am blindsided. All my boys are very close, all get along (for the most part) and do everything together, but I never expected my six year old to react so emotionally to his brother’s absence. Just yesterday the boys were telling me how annoying the other one was and today, the younger of the two is shedding tears that his big bro isn’t here. When I tell you his tears were so strong and his facial expression so sad, I could tell his heart was hurting very badly.
I had to quickly shift his focus to the positives while at the same time recognizing and validating his feelings. Here is what I told him:
- It’s okay to be sad that your brother isn’t here and if you want to cry, you can absolutely cry but let’s try to be happy for him too.
- Think about all the extra time you and I will have together this week, especially since you are not going to camp.
- Let’s do a sleepover this week in your room so we can play games, read and you won’t be lonely.
- Once you get used to having your own room, you may even like it.
- You are a role model for your little brother so stay strong because one day he will cry for you.
- It makes me so happy you love your brother so much and I am sure he is sad not to be with you as well.
- A week will fly by and you will soon be fighting and telling me he called you a bad name.
- Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Oh, and a little ice cream doesn’t hurt either. 🙂
I am writing this as he is falling asleep since I promised I would stay in his room until his eyes closed. We all know too well the heart wrenching feeling of missing someone. It hurts…a lot! To tell my son to stop crying and get it together would be insensitive and just feels wrong. It actually makes me really happy to know that he cares so deeply for his brother and that he needs his brother.
I need him! We all need him. My husband travels for work during the week and my big guy does a lot to help me out, both physically and emotionally. He even joked while we were packing, “what are you going to do without me?” He is an amazing young man whom I could not be more proud of. I am beyond excited for him to experience sleepaway camp because I know what is has in store for him, from my own experience.
I have lots in store ahead for Mommy Camp this week and know every day it will get easier for my six year old. This is not at all what I expected and a learning lesson for me. It’s clearly not just preparing the child who is leaving and the parent who has to let go, but the siblings as well.
Parenting is all about learning and getting better at understanding the needs of our children every day. I will say that I feel pretty good inside knowing the love my boys feel for each other, even if they don’t always show it.
Looks like my buddy is fast asleep so I can leave his room now. Tomorrow night, it’s all about our sleepover and I can’t wait.
TOGETHER WE CAN MASTER MOTHERHOOD™…and sleepaway camp!