Monday, July 13, 2009

Is my working causing my kids to grow up too fast?

A moment of self-doubt/clarity: is my working causing my kids to grow up too fast?

Thing Two is five years old and heading to Kindergarten in the fall. She's been at the same daycare for the past four years, starting as a toddler, spending two years in pre-school and this past year in a pre-kindergarten program. The school promoted academics heavily and she's already reading at an early first-grade level. We're proud of her, although we haven't pushed it.

She's a bit less advanced on the social side, tending to be shy and clingy. This summer, to give her a leg up socially, we pulled her from daycare and put her into the same Park & Recreation day camp program as Thing One. She had a fantastic first day.

The second day, though, she went on a field trip. She and 60 other little campers boarded a bus for an hour-long ride to an historical site. It was her first time on a bus and I was nervous. (Thing One was also on the field trip, but having been on buses before and being a really social animal, I wasn't worried at all about him.) I suggested that my daughter bring a stuffed animal to cuddle with on the way home in case she fell asleep. Was I nuts? Thing One thought so--he told her no way, so she put the big pink pig back on her bed. We compromised on a little puppy that could fit into the pocket of her backpack. I sent them both skipping off to their teenage counselors.

Later that afternoon, the skies opened up and lightning bolts crashed down. I was barely able to type because I was too busy chewing off my fingernails. You see, Thing Two is petrified of thunderstorms and I felt the immediate need to rush to her side. How could a stranger--one of the wonderfully energetic, but incredibly young, teenage camp counselors--comfort her? She needed her mommy, but I couldn't be there for her. Had I failed her?

The rest of the afternoon was fairly unproductive from a work perspective. Instead, I watched the clock until 2:55--pick up time is 3:00. I raced the quarter mile to camp, and when I got there I half expected Thing Two to be sitting on one of the counselor's laps, crying. Instead, I couldn't find her. That sent me into even more of a panic, although I was trying to appear calm. I scoured the high school cafeteria, looking in corners and under chairs. No Thing Two.

Finally I heard her froggy voice call "Mommy!" There she was, all big eyes and wet shirt. It turns out that she had gone to the bathroom straight from the bus. She seemed okay.

Then she hugged me and wouldn't let go. She wrapped her arms around my neck and her legs around my waist. I staggered a bit--her backpack threw me off balance--but I didn't let go either. As we headed outside, there was another boom of thunder and then Thing Two's very own waterworks started. She bawled into my shoulder. Her whole body shook. The camp director looked at me with worried eyes and told me that she had been fine all day. I nodded at him. I knew that she held it together until I got there.

So, yeah, I think sending her out into the world is making her grow up faster than her peers who have not spent as much time in daycare. But maybe that's okay. Maybe she'll learn some coping skills. And, for now at least, she still knows she's safe with me.