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Let the Sunshine In

Posted in: Blog by amy on June 22, 2012

*I am re-posting something that I wrote two years ago, before this website was in existence. Many anxious moms and dads have been talking to me about the feelings they are experiencing as they send their kids off to camp. I think this blog offers a helpful perspective, and because of its timeliness, I am sharing it with you today:

It was not the rain that woke me tonight, nor was it the usual stirrings of my over-active mind. It was the fact that my 11-year-old son is in a cabin right now at a camp I’ve never seen, and I’m consumed with thoughts of him. Is he sleeping peacefully? Is he surrounded by nice, new potential friends? Did he get the top bunk that he so desired? Is he excited about this new camp? Is he feeling anxious?

Before we drove him to the bus, my sister Denise called to say good-bye. I heard her asking him if he was excited. He said, “I am very excited and also a little nervous, or anxious, my mom says.” Then he asked her what anxious means. With her calmness and patience, she explained the emotion to him — how it’s a combination of being really excited and also a bit nervous. He listened to his aunt with great interest, told her he would write and then this anxious mom made him hang up so we could get to the bus.

But, I’ve been thinking about that word … that feeling so many of the campers have … that feeling that so many of us parents have. I also am reminded of a statement that my brother-in-law Steve said to me 12 years ago, when I was pregnant with Ben. I was nervous about something relating to the pregnancy, and he said, “Welcome to nine months of worry and terror followed by a lifetime of worry and terror!” How true is that statement?

We always think we’ll be relaxed when the next milestone is met — when he knows how to walk — when he can talk — when he is in school for a full day — when he does well on his test that he studied for all night — when we get all his stuff organized for camp — when we see his cabin picture and see the smile on his face.

But there’s always something else to keep us awake at night. “Did they put the egg crate under his sheet?” Something so trivial. Something so unimportant. Yet we look for that something that would enable us to feel that sense of “all is okay.”

And, here we go. For that is why my mind is battling with my body’s desire to sleep this evening. When do we ever really get that sense that “all is okay.” Can we ever really obtain that? Do we actually believe that it is within our control?

Maybe it’s another argument for perspective. For the powers of our minds. For the amazing ability we have to tell ourselves what feels comforting. We all control our reactions to many of our own thoughts incessantly. I did so continuously while at the bus stop.

There was my boy, my firstborn, sitting on the bus, quietly anticipating his seven-hour journey … the large, tinted window separated us. (Dramatic effect intended.) I could see the outline of him as he waved at me. With his new, short haircut and his skinny frame, I couldn’t help but to flash back to an image from the movie Hair: The long-haired, hippy friend known as Berger was heading off to see his friend Claude who was about to enter the Vietnam war. He had his gorgeous locks unexpectedly cut off. And I remember that image of him walking, with that strong fear in his body, with “anxiety” about the unknown. I loved that movie. I loved Berger. I loved they way the characters knew how to “let the sunshine in.” And that brings me back to perspective.

We are not sending our sons and daughters off to war. We are sending them off for a summer full of privilege and adventure, canoeing and backpacking, friendship and discovery.

Yet, Ben could have been feeling like Berger yesterday. He was heading into unchartered territory. He wasn’t going with any friends. He has never been away for eight weeks. He had never seen the camp to which this large bus was taking him. Everything was foreign. The feelings were foreign. And, even though he is so fortunate as he heads off for what we hope will be a wonderful summer, he must have been filled with that anxiety.

And, that is exactly the feeling that is keeping me awake on this night. I’m not sad, because “perspective” won’t allow me to be. My boy is lucky and fortunate and adventurous. He is not going off to Afghanistan. He is at camp! But, I am anxious. Because, I am his mom. Because he is my little guy. Because I want to know if he’s on the top bunk, where he so wanted to sleep. Because I miss him already.

I looked up the word anxiety, as I was curious about it’s exact definition after hearing Denise’s explanation. There were many defining phrases with words such as “uneasy” and “apprehensive.” Then, there was that one description of the word, which I choose to recall on this sleepless night:

“eagerly desirous.”

That sounds beautiful.

That is my definition.

That is what I hope my boy is feeling … eagerly desirous.

Once again, it’s all perspective. That is what allows us to fall back into a deep, peaceful sleep. It’s our rational perspectives. It’s our knowledge that we are so fortunate. It’s the fact that we can’t empathize with mothers of soldiers who have to know less comforting definitions of the word “anxiety.” It’s the fact that our children are so lucky to have these opportunities. It’s our belief that these little beings out there who we call “ours” are going to have joy and excitement and wonder and adventure.

I will go back to sleep now. And, while I still hope that Ben is dreaming of upcoming adventures with a smile on his face, I know that my anxiety is really just my being “eagerly desirous” as I wish for nothing but the simple, innocent, pure feelings of happiness and wonder for my Benny boy. Isn’t that what summer is about after all? Adventure. Exploration. Wonder. Awe. Beauty. Friendship.

So, sing it:

“Let the sunshine in, let the sunshine in … the sun shine in.”



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