Thursday, 3am

That’s when my blog gets the most viewers. What a lonely hour. Or maybe not. I get a lot of foreign visitors, so it’s possible I’m getting my clicks at 8am in London or noon in Islamabad. But if they really are finding me at 3am on Thursday, I’m happy to be here for them. There’s not much open at that hour.

I dropped my daughter off at camp yesterday, and it’s not the hot, buggy daytime hours that worry me. It’s the lonely, spooky nights. It’s the thing she can’t find in her sleeping bag, but she’s sure it was furry. It’s the storm that hits in the dark that doesn’t seem to frighten anyone else, but scares the hell out of her because she knows about supercells and derechos and all those annoying things her mom blathers on about. It’s Thursday, 3am, when the silence of our surroundings seems to encourage our minds to make more noise.

Last night, as the sun was setting, unease washed over me. Night was coming and my kid was out in it. She was not under my roof, or any roof.

Safety, health, comfort, happiness. In that order. Those are my priorities when it comes to my kids. That’s what I tell them when they whine about their seatbelts being too tight. Safety, health, comfort, happiness. But this camping trip, it’s not about that. It’s her attempt to find happiness in a situation she knows may be uncomfortable. Is it unsafe or unhealthy? Possibly mildly. Waivers were signed, after all. There are ticks and bears. A bear dragged a camper out of her tent a few years back. Is it likely a bear will choose my kid over the 124 other campers? No. Is it likely my kid will fall from the rock wall or high ropes course? Probably not. Is it likely my kid will step on a jagged rock in the lake or get sick from everyone using latrines without sinks or get blisters and sunburn and bug bite welts all over her body like all the blotchy counselors I saw at drop-off? Eh. Kind of. But will she be happy? Man, I hope so. Even just a little bit happy will be worth it.

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with my parenting priority list. It’s reasonable. It’s probably legally required. But it can’t guarantee a good life for my daughter, an interesting life. It may be my job to care for her this way, but the bigger job is hers. To figure out what balance gives her the best life. To take tiny steps out of her comfort zone and leap out of mine. To test herself. To know herself. That’s what I’m going to tell myself in the middle of the night. That it’s okay if she’s uncomfortable. That it’s okay if she’s risking her health. That she needs to shake things up a little. And it’s just camp, for crying out loud. A good one, I’ve heard. A safe one, I’m sure. Probably safer than the car ride up and back, statistically.

I hope she learns to survive and cope with the external and internal discomfort. I hope she gets stronger because I’m not there. I know exactly how important that is. I hope she breaks down a little and re-builds.

My urge, as a mom, as a grieving child, is to keep my loved ones close and safe, but I know I have to stop myself sometimes. For them. Because nothing is ever 100% safe or guaranteed. And they need to learn how to handle that. At any hour of any day.