Saturday, June 14, 2014

Let her Live her Life

Pamela Druckerman first introduced me to the idea of sleep-away camp for nursery school children in her book about raising kids in Paris, Bringing up Bebe. French parents routinely send their little ones off for a week in nature with their nursery school teachers. This concept was new and shocking to me, as it was to Druckerman. She didn't dare send her little one. I just put mine on the bus. And I feel good about it.  I am confidant that she will be fine. More than fine.


Iza left on the bus for camp this morning. Today it is Saturday. She will return on Thursday. She has never slept a single night away from home without me. When my husband is out of town (he spends every other month in America) she and her brother bedshare with me. What I told her:

I love you.

Have fun. 

It will be six days, five nights.

What she asked in the past several weeks:

How will she get her meals?

Who will she sleep with?

I told her that I would call her at least once per day. (This is a rule set by the teachers). She pointed out, “But, mama, I don’t have a phone.” I explained that I would call her teacher and the teacher would let her use her phone.

We were instructed to write five postcards. They will have a mail delivery each day and read the cards to the kids. I labored over the postcards.  It was an intensely emotional writing task. I drew several little lopsided hearts, a few ice-cream cones, even a little crooked rainbow. 

I also prepared a collage of family photographs for her to keep under her pillow.  I printed off several photos and laminated them.  The teachers had asked us to provide one family photo.  The truth is that we don't seem to have a photo with all of us.  So I made a collage.  Lamination was the natural finishing touch.  It will withstand rips and pillow drool.

We were also instructed to make a plastic bag for each day with an outfit inside. I found purple bags. I cut out little paper hearts and labeled each bag with her name and a number for each day.

When she saw the size of her suitcase, she said, “How will I carry that?” I assured her that the teachers would take care of it. (I didn’t have a smaller-sized bag to use.)


What I said to her as we stood in an excited crowd of parents and children on a busy Budapest street:

I love you.

Have fun.

If they have ice-cream everyday, that is okay. Enjoy it! (Normally we limit treats to Saturdays.)

If you need anything, ask your teacher.

What I didn’t say:

Brush your teeth.

Use sunscreen!

Wear clean underwear.

Don’t be afraid to flush the toilet in public restrooms. 

Listen to your teachers.

Behave. Be nice. 

Brush your unruly wild abundance of a tangled horse mane in the morning, for the love of god.  Wear a barrette to hold back your bangs so that they can grow out gracefully.  


Leo, who has never been separated from her for a single night in his life after he come home from the hospital, buried his head in her shoulder.

Iza said, “I love you.”

Leo said, “I love you.”

Iza said, “I need to go now.” Her voice was suddenly maternal, gentle but firm. The decision to take the trip had already empowered her before she said a final goodbye.

She boarded the enormous white bus. We waved furiously at the big windows where their heads barely cleared the lower sill. We didn’t see her, but we waved and blew kisses. Then it was time to let Leo cry on my shoulder before the walk home to a quiet house.

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