My daughter left for sleepover camp tonight. I raced back from Blogher in New York City to drive her down a gravel laneway ever closer to her grownup self. It is a little thing for some, developmental grains of sand slipping through a timer. But, I have learned, as a speaker, an adoption advocate and most of all an adoptive parent, there are very few little things when you are adopted. Everything is amplified. Everything is different.
How does adoption at camp differ than any other camp experience? In a lot of ways actually. From separating from parents and understanding they return to being able to cope socially and regulate emotions in a different space. Adoption at camp is simply different. Here’s how that looks here.
For one week, my girl, now 11, will do everything without us. Maybe for some families that isn’t a very big deal, but we fight harder, often just to find each other. There are times that we battle courts, health care systems, maybe even social workers, just for the gift of parenthood. So for me, this was a big deal.
I do not know all the complexities of adoption. I am not adopted. I am the parent of two girls who often permit me into their world. And this much I know. I have offered sleepaway camp to my oldest girl, a really social and bright, creative child, from the time she was six years old. And although it can be extremely expensive, I wanted her to have the ability to enjoy all the great aspects of camp. The writing home, the first crushes, the different foods, the late nights, the forgetting to wash your face for two days, and the great lifelong friendships with kids from all over the province.
For five years my gorgeous girl has always had the same answer: “I’m not ready.”
I accepted that.
After all, this is the same amazing tiny soul who attached so fast at only 6 weeks old when I first held her. The same deep little reservoir of emotion who cried her heart out the first time we had to return her during pre-placement (weeks in which you build a relationship and shuttle kids back and forth between homes before they move in for good) And still the same darling girl who woke in the night while on a sleepover in grade four crying, having had a terrible nightmare. Her friend’s mom later told me that Payton dreamt we had moved while she was away and she couldn’t find us. Who, but an adopted child, would ever dream such a horrible thing?
Adoption at Camp is Hard But Worth It.
My girl. Girl of my heart.
So, this year when my child turned eleven and she finally told me she was ready for camp, she wanted to go to camp, with her best friend, well I was a bit apprehensive. A bit thrilled, a bit worried, a bit conflicted. But she was ready, and despite any of my feelings, she told me she was ready. This is my girl. She has always been able to tell me where she is at emotionally. I love that about her. She is an open book I never tire of reading.
Several month later I drove her away. To sleepaway camp. And I watched myself become that Mom, exhausted, overbearing, slightly controlling version of self, warning them about her medicine, about the odd food allergy that has just appeared this year, and about the fact that this is her first time away from home without us. I watched her climb up a ladder to a perilously high bunk then gave her a hug goodbye and left her there to grow without me.
When you are the Mom of a child by adoption, parenting is louder, brighter, bigger, slower, charmed, blessed. First you are gifted, handed a baby, toddler, child, and you hold your blessings close. Your baby/toddler is precious, gorgeous, special and finally family. It is not uncommon for trips, transitions, suitcases, even changes to routine to trigger very big stuck spots, or anxieties for our children. After all, their notion of family begins with a grief, a loss and often heartbreak. Their life experience starts with disruption. Sometimes, it just takes our kids longer to feel safe, find their wings and soar.