The backspace key was heavily used as I tried to type short notes to my daughters while they were away at camp.
“I hate when you’re off doing your own thing. I miss you so much. Couldn’t you just stay here?”
“I miss playing basketball in the driveway, even though you’re so much better at it than I am.”
“We’re not a complete family when you’re gone.”
“The Cubs stunk during an 11-game losing streak, and I wish you were here to help me understand why they stink.”
“I don’t ever want to let you leave our house for more than eight hours at a time again.”
Backspace, backspace, backspace.
The church camp where our 12-year-old and 13-year-old daughters attended this summer lets you send notes to your children. They’re printed and delivered to their cabins in between all the fun outdoor activities, learning silly and spiritual songs alike and the moments they share about why faith matters to them.
Whenever I used to think about letters and camps, I thought of the old Allan Sherman 1963 song, “Camp Grenada.” It’s the one that starts off with, “Hello, Muddah, hello Faddah” and all the horrible things about camp … up until the point it stops raining and becomes fun.
The key difference is the boy writes the letters, not the parents. In our situation, they’re not writing to us first, and we really have no idea how they’re enjoying the camp, other than seeing a few smiling photos on an app and knowing they liked it a lot when they went a few years ago.
You’d think a guy who has written a 550-word column every week since March 2011 could handle a short note to his daughters. That’s where that dreaded backspace key has been my enemy, though.
I have plenty of thoughts about how rotten my life is when they’re not around. I don’t want to burden them with my codependence. It’s not their fault I don’t know what to do when I’m driving them to their events. There’s no reason for them to know I watch old episodes of M*A*S*H when they’re not around.
No, I want them to have a healthy, normal period of growing up and striking out on their own. They need to go places where they don’t know many people and make friends at camp. They need to try different things while supervised by people who claim to be responsible, even if they come off a little overly friendly when you’re dropping your kids off in the middle of nowhere.
At the same time, I did want them to understand we felt their absence. We might joke about how they just hide in their rooms or play on electronic devices, but each daughter provides some trait in our home that’s noticeable when they’re gone.
Instead of focusing on how their departure hurts me, I tried to stay positive on what I hoped they’d hear at camp. I made sure they knew how much we loved them, missed them and wanted the best for them.
As for the other stuff running through my head while they’re gone? I guess that’s between you, me and the backspace key on my keyboard.