Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Five days of empty nest

At camp welcoming ceremony with Jake
Well, the boys are both at camp and we haven't gotten a phone call to come scoop them up yet, so I've got my fingers crossed that nobody gets injured and the phone call never comes, and this experiment will turn out to have been a whopping success.

I'm still stunned, and reeling. Delighted by the freedom and missing them fierce, all at the same time.

I got home yesterday at about 6 pm, after driving Jake up to camp in the Berkshires on Sunday and then staying overnight up there with friends, not wanting to do the round trip all in one day.

I was supposed to leave in the morning, but I was having so much fun being a grown-up, socializing as me and not as "mom," I stayed through lunch. It was the most vacation-like 24 hours I'd had all summer, and it was glorious.

Last night my husband had plans to go out to dinner with friends and I spontaneously called up a dear friend and had dinner with her, myself. Did you catch that word "spontaneously"? Been missing from my vocabulary for, well, nine years now.

Walking out the door yesterday evening without making plans for children, hiring a sitter, calculating how long to stay out (the "is the extra hour of fun worth the extra hour of sitter" quotient)? Glorious. And strange.

Strolling with my husband down Riverside Drive on our way to our respective dinners, I was positively giddy.

But today, I've felt a little un-moored all day. "Mom" is so at the core of my identity, I don't know who I am if I'm not caring for or planning for the care of little ones.

Even when I was across the country at BlogHer, I was still calling, getting texts, still the one "in charge" of arrangements, even if the execution of them was in other hands.  I had even gotten a 3:30 AM call from my husband one morning, California time, needing to know where to find the boys' lunch boxes. (Scared the bejeesus out of my roomies, too.)

But this? This is hand them over and then pick them up. Totally out of my hands. Totally unprecedented.

But the instincts, they don't just go away, even when the brain says "stop."

Tonight at about 6 pm, at the time when even if the boys had been out and about all day they would surely be home and needing to be fed, I was jumpy. I just couldn't shake the feeling that I needed to be doing SOMETHING for SOMEONE. Nope.

I am going to try my hardest to enjoy my last 2 days of freedom. I have a lot to do, busy, busy days planned, but I will be sleeping in Wednesday and Thursday. 6 AM wake-ups, 7 days a week for years on end has been brutal.

And I'm going to try to quench the little back-of the-mind voices that are worrying about my boys. Especially Jake who seemed so barely ready for this, about whom I went back and forth, and back and forth before deciding to go through with it.

It's so hard with him, to know how much he actually understands about what is going on around him. I have often both under- AND over- estimated his comprehension of situations.

I'd been doing my best to prepare him: writing social stories, reading Arthur Goes to Camp together. The whole ride up I talked about how long a week was, reminded him I'd be leaving him but would definitely, no matter what, be back to pick him up the next Sunday.

We had arrived at camp just in time for the opening ceremony, and as we sat together through the songs and heartfelt, cheery welcomes, Jake turned to me every few minutes and asked "Are you leaving now, Mom?" So, yeah, I guess that part had sunk in.

You know you're at ASD camp when someone stands in front of the group to introduce himself "Hi, I'm Dan..." and a voice from the peanut gallery pipes up "You're short!" Luckily Dan had a sense of humor and we all laughed.

You also know you're at a special needs camp when there are large kids screaming and crying and carrying on about separating from their parents. My heart went out to those kids and moms while I secretly thanked every supreme being I'd ever heard of that it wasn't MY kid.

Jake was amazing, giving me a warm hug and kiss and saying goodbye... and then going off with the group, like he did that every day. He never ceases to surprise me.

Ethan was nervous about fitting in, but as he's at camp with three good friends, I'm sure he's having a great time. And even if he's miserable, it's only five days, right?

On Friday morning I leave early (6 AM wake-up again. SIGH.) to go fetch Ethan. And he'll have a day with me, Jacob-free, which should please him immensely. And then Sunday we drive up to get Jake, and then it's full-time family time once again. For the two more weeks until school begins.

The moment I see their faces once again, I know how much I've missed them will come flooding over me, and I'll try not to embarrass them too much with my tears and kisses.

Within hours of their being home, I know these five child-free days will seem like a fever dream, a distant memory... like lazy Sunday mornings, or having a waist.

But for now I'm going to try to lay the strangeness and anxieties aside, and milk this time dry. Go to the movies - spontaneously! Eat something Ethan loves - and NOT have to share it with him. Shout something to my husband from one room to the next in the late evening and not worry about waking a sleeping child. Sleep naked. Step out at midnight, just to look at the moon and the stars.


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