I just got back from dropping Michael and Zachary at their first day of sports camp at our local university. It has been their favourite camp for years and they look forward to the two-week session with great anticipation. When you walk into the main gym for drop-off, the music is blaring and every single counsellor greets you with enthusiasm and warmth. The camp is staffed by uber-fit varsity athletes and the camp vibe is fun, pumped and seriously sporty.
I have confident, fun and seriously sporty boys. I don’t worry about them making friends, fitting in and having fun at this camp.
This morning’s drop-off, however, has left me a little shaky and a lot choked up.
After dropping Zach at his counsellor group I wandered down the massive gym to say goodbye to Michael. He looked a little wary but had already started chatting with some of the other boys. He allowed me to give him a ‘man-hug‘ goodbye and seriously brightened up when I told him we would get a frozen lemonade on the way home (the humidex is supposed to hit 38 degrees Celsius this afternoon).
I felt okay walking away from Michael but spotting Zach on my way out absolutely broke my heart.
Zachary is one of the most confident children I have ever encountered. Zach lives his life from a place of always fitting in. With his mile-wide grin and third-child-energy, he never exhibits any degree of shyness or reticence in social situations. He is the life of the party and the focus of the fun.
This morning, however, he looked lost.
He was standing apart from the group with his fingers together in a nervous fiddle. He spotted me and instantly brightened up. He gave me a hug and told me he loved me repeatedly. And as much as I wanted to pick him up and carry him home with me, I kept it very light and cool (nothing like a choked-up parent to completely undo an emotionally tenuous child!)
It took everything I had to walk away from Zachary and my heart felt like it was breaking as I made the long walk back across the football field to my car.
As I drove home I thought about Zach. I thought about the fact that by the end of the day he would have twenty new best friends, be high-fiving staff and coaches on his way out of camp and then be counting the moments until he could go back on Wednesday (after our Canada Day hiatus). I also thought about the fact that I have never had to worry about my kids coming out of their first-day-shy-shells. And I thought about how excruciating it would be to feel that my kids would struggle socially through the whole day, the whole camp, the whole summer.
I am just about to hop on my bike for a solo ride through the woods. And, as I ride, I intend to give my deepest thanks for my three extraordinary children and for this morning’s opportunity to remember that for all their gusto, confidence and energy, they have endearingly tender hearts beating softly within.