For the past several months since we found out about it, Axa has been looking forward with great anticipation to Nature Camp at our local Environmental Center. And yesterday, the big day finally arrived. She’d had her backpack all packed up for days, and set out her clothes the night before. She even asked me what time she should turn off her light and go to sleep, which is a first for my little girl who (like her mother before her) often stays up reading until all hours of the night. Ah, the luxuries of homeschooling.
Yesterday as I drove her to the Lyonia Environmental Center, I reflected that perhaps this is a little bit how parents must feel when they take their child to school for the first time. I hoped that it would be as amazing as she was expecting. I hoped that all the other children would be nice to her, and that she would be nice to them. I hoped that she would make a connection with a kind and responsible adult, who would be a good role model.
I signed the paperwork, looked around at the room and the other children, and then turned to go. Even though my cell phone number is all over the forms I signed, I felt compelled to turn to the program leader and assure her that she could call me if there was any problem.
As I drove home in an empty car that felt suddenly very empty indeed, I wondered what I was going to do for the next six hours without her. All day I felt like a mother duck with one duckling missing. I found that reducing the number of children in our house by 50% reduces the noise level by 95% (at least when the missing child is Axa).
I did enjoy doing math and reading with Raj without having to run back and forth between the two of them answering questions. And I didn’t have to break up any sibling tiffs. But mostly I just missed the feeling of our whole family being together. Even though we like traveling and living around the world, in a way we’re quite the homebodies. Tony works from home. We homeschool. On any given day, we’re more likely than not to spend at least the majority of the day at home.
It’s been this way for at least the past few years, and I don’t usually think about it, because it’s just normal for us. Honestly, I have as difficult of a time imagining the whole family going their separate ways for most of every day as my friends who send their kids to school have imagining what it would be like to have them home all day.
Axa came home bubbling over with excitement and talking a mile a minute. She even learned a few things, although she already knew quite a bit about the animals to be found at the Lyonia Preserve. So obviously, at least so far, Camp has been a great thing for her. It’s also been a good thing for me, because it’s given me the chance to really appreciate the wonderful gift we have of so much time together.
Seasons change, and children grow up. I imagine that as our family’s needs evolve, we will probably spend more time outside our home, both together and separately. But for now, I feel lucky that we get to live mostly in our own little love-,book-, and wonder-filled world.