It is a 6th grade right of passage to attend 6th grade camp before the end of the school year. It’s a way to celebrate the end of elementary school, and a way to make new friends from other schools before being bunched together in the big, scary halls of Jr. High.
At 12 years old, I went with my class to our own 6th grade camp. I was excited to leave my parents and sisters behind and have the opportunity to hang out with all my friends for a whole week. And the best part? No school work! We spent the days playing games out in the field, going through “ice breaker” games that helped us to get to know our future classmates from other schools. We ate in the cafeteria, food that was just as good as cafeteria food can get, but decent enough to eat. And we’d stay up way later than the obligatory “lights out” call mandated. About 6 of us were crammed into a cabin with bunk beds. I got the top bunk, and shared the room with some of my closer friends from school. Our parent chaperone was very lenient, allowing us to hang out on each other’s bunks after the last call was given as long as we kept it down to a low roar. I think this was also to encourage us to stay in the cabin and not sneak out. And for the most part, it worked.
Of course, there were the usual pranks during the week. “Somebody” saran wrapped the toilet and put Kool-Aid in the shower heads. Nobody saw who did it, so for all we know it could have just been like that already…
The last night came and I suddenly didn’t feel well. And without warning, I threw up all over my top bunk, ruining my sleeping bag. I prayed that it didn’t travel down to my friend on the lower bunk. And I had no choice but to sleep without any bedding that night. My mom came to pick me up early the next day, carefully gathering up all my things while I stood by, white as a ghost. Of course, I was fine by the next day.
It was during this trip away that I must have gone through the change. My mom noticed that I was suddenly taller and thinner. It was like I had lost all my baby fat over the week and was suddenly turning into a teenager. It may have just been because I had been gone for longer than I ever had before, and my mom was seeing me with new eyes. Or maybe the flu had rid myself of the baby pudge I had been holding onto. Whatever it was, 6th grade camp marked the time when I left childhood and entered my teen years.
Yesterday my daughter left for 6th grade camp. I packed her up part of the way, and she finished up by including all the things that would make her happy: her journal, a book, a flashlight for late night writing, some stamps and envelopes to write letters home. I was going to miss her. I knew that much to be true. She is my 2nd mother in the house. And even though she’s my daughter and I’m in charge of her, she’s also my friend. She’s the one that I can run ideas by and get a fully honest answer. She’s my mirror when I’m getting ready for work. She’s the alarm clock letting her brother and me know that it is time to leave for school. She’s the one who gets my jokes, and even has a few of her own. She’s sarcastic as all get-out, and I love that about her. I can’t help but wonder how much she’ll change while she’s away. And while she’s only gone for a few days, it seems like that’s an awfully long time.
Of course she feels the same way…
And she had to tell me how much she would miss me before she left me to go to school.
(No, she’s not telling me to stop taking pictures of her…)
And then she gave me a huge hug, telling me how much she’d miss me while she was gone, wondering how she would ever get by without her brother and me.
All I could tell her was that it would be hard, but she’d manage.
You’ve got to love tweenagers.
By the way, how’s the attitude of your own tween? Are you going through the rolling eyes and the “I’d rather die than have anyone know I’m related to you” looks yet?