My baby is going to camp.

Two simultaneous emotions: vicarious joy, because I went to camp for nine summers in a row as a kid and loved every minute, and a deep sense of confusion as to what life will feel like when, after almost 27 years of active parenting, I won’t have to really take care of anyone for a month straight.

Let’s do the joy part first.

I was made for camp. I love people and I love deep conversations late at night. I mean, I used to love them late at night; now, I still love them but less late at night, please. I love singing and dancing and acting. Love the trips, the ruach, the Shabbats at camp. Love the inside jokes and the friendships. Love the camp pride.

I even went back to camp as an adult for five years with my husband and kids to work as a director and make all that magic happen for other people’s kids.

So, watching my youngest go off for the first time to experience this magic herself is just … more magic. Of course, I worry, because, moms. COVID-19. Girl drama. Stuff I don’t know to worry about. But mostly joy, for her to hopefully fall in love with camp as I did.

Second: the empty nest.

For decades, my life has been punctuated by the kids’ schedules, starting with the naps, feedings and diaper changes of our first babies. We moved on to my work schedule, revolving around when I had to pick them up from the babysitter.

Later, preschool pickup at 1 p.m. It always seemed like I had almost no time to shower, dress and maybe run a couple of errands, and there it was: 1 p.m. It was always 1 p.m. every time I turned around. The years that I was working, I stole time from here and there to run a quick errand or pick up groceries so I wouldn’t have to shlep the kids along. One p.m. signaled the end of productivity.

Then the day slowly lengthened. The youngest was in preschool. No more babies. Then she went to kindergarten. I had a full day. The hours yawned before me, seemingly endless. Now, I’d have all the time in the world to do everything I ever wanted or needed: work. Work out. Get together with friends. Errands. Cook. Laundry.

But life has a way of filling your time before you can blink, and my schedule is still punctuated by the schedules of my kids, broader though they may be.

Now, for a month, it will not be.

What will that feel like? How will I fill the time? How will I cook for so few? Can it even be done? Will I love it?

So much that remains to be seen? A glimpse to the future? An oasis of leisure?

At this stage of my life, every school year brings a new reality. This year, my high school graduate is off to Israel and our son is going to yeshiva for high school. Things will feel very different from last year, with only two kids living at home.

Joy and wonder. Curiosity and worry. Pride and relief. Apprehension and celebration.

Isn’t that what being a mother is all about?


Connect with Ruchi Koval on Facebook at ruchi.koval and on Instagram @ruchi.koval.

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