Blossoming Independence: Off to Camp
We arrived at the dance, and just before unbuckling her seatbelt, she said, “I love you.” Then, off she went. Isn’t this how it is supposed to be?
My daughter is a young adult. She lives at home, doesn’t have a job, and we are the center of her world. When friends say, “I don’t want my child to ever move out,” I look at them quizzically. Isn’t that the mission? For them to grow up and leave the nest? For us, this isn’t an option. Jess can’t fend for herself. Even though she is becoming more independent, she will never live on her own without support.
At first, this was difficult to accept. There have been moments when I’ve felt a twinge of envy when a friend’s child has left for college. The only time I’ve known that freedom is when Jess attended away camp, where five and a half days is considered a week. It was easier when she was a toddler. We had family who helped when they could, but as she grows older, there are fewer opportunities. We are grateful when someone invites her out — not so much because it gives my husband and me time to ourselves, but because it makes her happy.
The first time Jess went to camp, my husband and I didn’t know what to do with ourselves. We fretted and worried for the first three days, and Jess was the topic of all of our conversations. By the time we adjusted to being a couple, it was time to bring her home. Now we are more seasoned. We follow her lead and let her go. There’s almost a sense of normalcy.
Jess tried a couple of programs before finding her current day program. There’s just not a lot of choices, and it was hard finding a balance that gave her enough support while encouraging independence.
She attends a community-based group that is always on the move. They have a weekly routine and mix it up with new activities. Her favorite day at the program is Tuesday, when she gets to deliver Meals on Wheels.
The rest of the week, I think she makes her choices based on who she will be with. She has her staff favorites but she also has made a friend that she looks forward to seeing. She likes Ryan for many reasons, he’s a talker and she likes to listen. He also looks after her like an older brother. For too many years, whenever I picked Jess up, I’d find her sitting by herself, holding her backpack, ready to leave. Even though being alone didn’t bother her, it saddened me. Bottom line, it’s important to be with people you enjoy and she’s found that with Ryan. It’s sweet that they choose to sit next to each other and do activities together.
What the dances, camp, and her day program all have in common is they build confidence and blossom independence. I think that is all we really want for our children. I can’t ask for more than that.
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