Sunday, August 24, 2014

After the end and before the beginning

When last we spoke, dear readers, we'd left our eldest at rookie camp. And then we held our breath off-stage, because we wanted said eldest to have a wonderful experience, we desperately craved that she'd have such, but we just weren't sure.

And then she came home, and we hugged her, and we still weren't sure what to report.

And then we had one week: we left. We vacayed. Four states, two hotels, a new ferry, a familiar beach. 

And tomorrow begins third grade (and also first grade, and also the last year of preschool, but sometimes this blog is the parenting to anxiety blog, not the easy-go-lucky here comes first grade blog, nor the this year of preschool looks just like last year, pretty much because it is the same blog). 

All week, we discussed: the intention of rookie camp is to see if the camper is ready for sleepover camp. Her two friends came off the bus chanting NEXT YEAR TWO WEEKS! and this girl came off the bus all smiles, entirely happy, huge hugs, and pulled me down and whispered I'm not going next year

So while we rode a lazy river and a ferris wheel and jumped waves and explored museums we discussed. And it was mostly a superwonderfulamazingspectacular experience, rookie camp. But the food was such a challenge. And this sweet girl, the one who has grown so much, (SO MUCH,) she struggles with food. The foods she eats are really pretty healthy, but they're a short list. And food and eating made her really unhappy, especially with counselors who (well-intentioned, I'm hoping) told her she couldn't just live off of the chickpeas and red peppers at the salad bar (you could TOTALLY live off of chickpeas and red peppers, though), and "made" her take a serving of whatever the main food was every day, and then told her not to waste food, she had to finish what was on her plate. That's the camp complaint. But for a girl with sensitive and sensory concerns and who fears disappointing authority figures like counselors, it all added up to a huge guilt and shame burden of anxiety overload. 

But eeeeeverything else about camp was superwonderfulamazingspectacular.  She swam in a lake and held a chicken and flew down a zip line and didn't eat smores, because she doesn't like marshmallows or graham crackers or chocolate, and see how food intrudes on every part of life? 

We were a little pressured, because the two-week sessions of camp sell out within a matter of days, and 2015 registration opened as soon as rookie camp ended. Even more importantly, though, we were pressured to figure out the right resolution for this girl because she was beating herself up terribly. Her two friends want to go next year, and she made a gazbillion new friends, and not everybody is ready for sleepaway camp and that's fine

She has grown so much, though, in the past year, and I've been trying to grow myself to accomodate. For so long (VERY LONG) it was my job to protect her from the hard options, as they simply overwhelmed her. I think, though, we're marking a new phase and we should lean in to the reachable challenges. And I don't know anything for sure, and I certainly don't know anything about sleepaway camp - I never went to one - but I sense that she wants this enough that we can grow into readiness between now and next June. And the self-abusive dithering had to end. So I listened to a yes and a no and we agreed to sign up over the weekend and one friend's mom emailed to say she'd just signed up just after E woke up crying saying I'm not going! Don't register! 

I finally asked: if A and K go next year and you don't, are you going to feel relieved? Or angry at yourself that you're not joining them? 

She answered firmly: really angry at myself. So we signed up. She's going to two weeks of sleepaway camp next June, with her two best friends, and I have nine months to get her to like sunflower-butter-and-jelly sandwiches as a standard alternative main dish option. Or to figure out what exactly to write in her camper application to explain that she has my explicit permission to live on chickpeas and red peppers for twelve days.

So we went on vacation. It was really quite nice. I offer you this picture of G, long (long long LONG) past his bedtime, still digging in the sand, which is basically his favorite thing to do in the whole wide world:


And you know what all that angst was really good for? We completely avoided the new-school-year anxiety. Until today. Oof.

Local public schools go back to class tomorrow, but we only play at going to school. Tomorrow's the two-hour meet-and-greet; I'll take the girls and meet their teachers and find their lockers and drop off their school supplies. Then we leave before lunch and have a whole unimpeded afternoon and evening to panic about third grade, which starts properly on Tuesday. More soon....


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