Turn! Spin! Pivot again!

Sometimes parenthood seems the longest exercise in learning how to do 180-degree turns, doesn’t it? 

It started with the shift from summer travel mode to summer camp mode last week. The preparation was mostly mental: getting our son excited to go to camp after a summer free of morning drop offs. For me, it was about switching my brain from full-time mom/activity director to writer. I spent at least a week pirouetting through mental checklists of all the writerly activities I wanted to get done in that blessed summer camp week. My brain churned with neglected projects that represented well more than a week’s worth of work. So on Monday morning, we accomplished the logistical maneuvers to get us out of the house with all the summer camp necessities…only to hit a heart-wrenching plot twist. 

Someone (and by ‘someone’, I mean me) hadn’t actually submitted the camp registration. The roster was full and my son’s name was not on the list. After an awkward conversation with two separate (and incredibly nice) members of the camp staff, we were back in the car headed home.


After a week of up-selling camp, I had to execute a hard right turn to keep my kid from feeling the sting of rejection. The reminder of what he was missing as fresh and uncomfortable as the shoes, wet with dew from the summer camp fields, we were both wearingMy brain went into overdrive trying to figure out how to keep the week from being a total disaster. The problem was, all the items on my writing to-do list were screaming like passengers going down in a plane crash, and it was hard to think (or breathe normally) for all their small tragedies. 


I’m only a little embarrassed to admit that I held it together for approximately 30 seconds after my husband took our son to walk the dogs, giving me a few moments to “look at the calendar.” The words “summer camp,” scrawled across the week some months before, reduced me to a sniffling mess. It was partially embarrassment that I’d somehow managed to fail at a fairly basic parent task. It was partially concern that my failure would cause our son to feel sad and/or disappointed all week. And it was at least 50 percent despair at the sudden loss of precious writing time, sandwiched as it was between six weeks of travel and the start of a new part-time job. 

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Handling First Day Of Camp Fears

Cara Martinisi is a wife and mother to three boys. Her oldest son lives in heaven. Cara is dedicated to helping families navigate life post child loss. She is a contributor to The Mighty and writes an inspirational blog about her journey through grief. She shares her unique outlook on child loss at www.christiansredballoon.com. As our guest blogger today, she reminds us to find the balance our own anxieties and those of our kids.


This morning as I sat editing my latest writing piece with an urgent feeling, my five year old son, Nicky, came to me, whining that he didn’t want to go to camp. My husband misspoke and told him to “Have a good day at camp!” He truly thought that it was the first day.  My husband didn’t realize that he had just ignited anxiety in my son. Of course he would never do that intentionally but upon hearing that he would be going to camp, Nicky panicked.

I wish I could say that I responded as I would have liked right from the start, but I didn’t. I continued on, editing this piece because that’s what I was having anxiety over! Camp didn’t begin today and I knew that we had time to deal with the issue. My writing piece however, was due today. As I kept my eyes and attention focused on my writing, Nicky carried on whining that he could not go anywhere without his mommy and daddy. He said he was scared to be without us! This was, of course, not true. He had just completed a year at preschool! He went on playdates without us! He was just trying to play me! Admittedly this was all probably part of the reason why I ignored his whining and responded by telling him, in a frustrated voice, that camp was not starting today!!! Who wants to hear their kid whine? Especially when attempting to attend to an urgent matter of your own.

Once it became clear that I would not be able to focus on my own anxiety and writing piece, I looked up and actually saw my son. Immediately I was reminded about a book I am reading called, Strong Mothers, Strong Sons, by Meg Meeker, M.D. The premise of the book is to help mothers develop healthy relationships with their sons. Meeker writes, “Every mother has to start the process of building an emotional vocabulary when her son is young and do her best to help him acknowledge and express appropriate feelings in the healthiest manner possible.” My tactics of simply telling my son that he had nothing to worry about was not in line with that philosophy.

My writing piece could wait. It was clear that the anxiety about having to start camp was torturing this poor five year old. The self-deprecating voice in my head would just have to wait now too! I would have to deal with my own conscience about how I treated him later. Right now, he needed me. My children are, and have always been, my priority.

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