Tuesday, August 04, 2009

58 Months

Summer Camp!

In anticipation for the upcoming school year, we sent Lucas to a half-day gymnastics camp at the YMCA. This was the very first time that we dropped him off with complete strangers and let them take care of him while we went through our regular day. We were a bit concerned that Lucas might have some separation issues when September rolled around so we thought that this might help him overcome some preconceived anxiety that we had built up in our minds.

The anxiety, if you hadn't noticed yet, was all completely manufactured by overprotective parents of course. Every time we spoke to Lucas about the upcoming school year, not once did he respond with a wish that he won't have to go. HE IS READY. We just simply need to keep repeating that to ourselves and Xtimu and I will make it through the next few weeks.

Lucas was very excited about Gym Camp. Remember, he was ready. So we took him to the YMCA went through the mad chaos of camp activities that swarmed around us with childish vigor. Fifty random booths, designed for every interest imaginable, set up around the lawn like a pre-adolescent woodstock. Shifting and dodging the screaming meemies, we somehow managed to find the proper tent for Lucas and signed him in.

Lucas has this strange aura that surrounds him when he's somewhat unsure of himself. He becomes very reticent. He sits back and watches, becomes hesitant, doesn't express his wishes with the accustomed fervor that we've come to know so well. Then I have this tiny little version of myself when I was a kid that bursts forth at times like these. It's a protective force of some kind that wants to save the day, all hero-like. You see, I was just like him but even more shy, much much more shy. When I see him like that my heart yearns to grab him and hug him and make sure that he understands that it will all be okay.

So, Invariably this is what I will do. First, I settle myself (no need to panic) and get down on his level (one of the greatest ways to connect to your child is to kneel down so that you are looking them in the eye), then I calmly ask him (whatever you do don't transfer the anxiety that's rushing through your blood) if he's going to be okay with all of it. This is what I do every time I've ever seen him shrink away and Lucas, every time, has responded with a profound yes. No thinking about it, no waffling, just a simple yes does wonders. He always let's me know that he's already okay with all of it and he's just waiting to see how things progress. Then I give him a big strong hug to carry around with him while he accomplishes whatever amazing feat he's about to attempt and finally I step away.

But there's always that longing that comes back as you walk away. I have to look back and make sure that he's okay about five or six times and whenever I look at him he has that same heart-wrenching look on his face (you can see it in the picture above, he's the one with the old-fashioned baseball shirt with van occupanther on the front and his hands twisting tightly around the drawstring of his shorts). It just seems like he's not having much fun at all and when I see that look on his face I want to rush back and save him from all of the torture that I imagine is going through his incredible little brain. It's agonizing and once I really think about it, I start to see where all the torture is coming from; stuck right inside my own psyche!

We went to an orientation for parents at the new school where Lucas will be attending kindergarten in the fall. They explained that on the first day of classes they have a specific drop off plan that allows parents to separate from their children. They emphasized, more than once, that it's always the parents who have a problem with breaking away from their child during this primal morning ritual. When we took him to Gym Camp I came to understand exactly what they were talking about and now I truly see that what we were really trying to learn by signing him up at the YMCA for a week of jumping and tumbling. We were trying to anticipate how WE were going to deal with his eventual first step away from us.

And in the end, when we came to pick him up after that first day, Lucas was jumping and laughing and hugging his fellow inmates. He had a blast and couldn't wait to go back the next day.

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