This summer was the first time our youngest boy would be attending summer camp. In previous years, he’d had summer school at his preschool, and continued his work with a speech therapist, an OT, and a PT. There were two weeks off before summer school and two weeks off at the end before the regular school year resumed.
This year was different, for although he qualified for summer services, they would be half days and I was not sure how meaningful that would be for him. With great trepidation, I declined the summer services (because we’re taught to protect any and all services as though our lives depended on it) and sent my baby to summer camp.
This was not just any camp, it was a camp specifically for kids with a diagnosis and/or mental health needs or developmental needs. It’s a small group of kids and a lot of incredibly talented and patient (and well trained!) counselors who would come together every day for six weeks and share in their common experiences.
It was a camp where my kids weren’t the “odd man out”. They got to be…kids. They got to feel normal. They felt supported.
This has not always been the case, and our previous two years at another camp (for Speedy) showed that not every camp is able to handle special needs.
During the last week of camp, they took a special trip to a waterpark. Two. Hours. Away.
I put my babies on a charter bus and as I drove to work I cried.
The first of my coworkers to ask me how I was doing was met with sobs. Because apparently I was really not at all prepared for putting a 5 year-old and a 7 year-old on a bus for a two hour drive which would surely result in their total destruction (or so I was convinced).
(Hint: they were fine, really)
I have a tendency to think of all of the possible Worst Case Scenarios when faced with The Great Unknown. I run these scenes in my head regardless of level of absurdity, and I play them all to completion as though they were part of a movie I’d just seen.
Here’s the result of that trip:
Did I need to worry? No, of course not. While it’s true that incidents do happen, it’s also true that the staff at the park and the staff at his camp know what they’re doing.
The lesson in all of this is that I needed to let go a little, if for no other reason than my own sanity. This is an important and difficult lesson for a control enthusiast such as myself, and I’m still learning.
What does one do when faced with the knowledge that maybe they’re holding on a little too tightly to their children?
Put down the bubble wrap, Susan*. You absolutely cannot protect your children from the entire world. You need to let them experience the falls and scrapes and the terrifying moments. You need to arm them with the knowledge that stuff happens, and that they have the ability to face the stuff when it all goes down.
Because here it is, in a nutshell: if you surround them and helicopter them you may be temporarily making yourself feel better (assuming you have not yet realized the extent to which you’re making yourself a wee bit crazy) but YOU ARE NOT HELPING THEM. Like Speedy says, “Be like Elsa and let it go!”
*There is no Susan. Or if there is, she doesn’t have bubble wrap.