Let’s set the scene. It’s Saturday morning, and you’ve been up for hours. You’re trembling because you drank two large cups of coffee in anticipation of making a three-hour schlep to your child’s camp in Nowhere, USA, possibly by yourself. Around you will be giddy parents, mostly married ones, chatting with each other and wheeling around beach carts filled with candy and chips their children will never finish eating. Today is visiting day, and while you tell yourself you love seeing your kids (and you do), it’s not lost on you that, even if you were married, camp visiting day would also be a hassle, not to mention emotionally charged. Divorced now, you fear the day will be even that much more difficult for you, and them.
I started sending my children to sleepaway camp in 2009, and this coming summer will be the first summer during which none of them will be attending. Still, the memories of past visiting days will forever be etched in my mind, particularly the first one when my ex-husband and I decided not to go together. We separated in January of 2012, so when camp visiting day rolled around that summer, I began to fear the changes our new family dynamic would cause and wondered if my ex-husband’s absence would impede our celebration of our children at camp and their enjoyment of it.
Most of these changes appeared minor at first glance. My ex-husband was always the one who was behind the wheel when we made our yearly trip up to camp. Now that honor had been bestowed on me and me alone. Three hours each way. No sleeping in the car to catch up on lost hours, which meant the first impression my children might get of me in a month would be a cranky, unpleasant mom instead of the lighthearted mom they wanted and needed to see. I feared my mood could potentially ruin our day.
More than that, though, I worried about the impact my ex-husband physically not being at visiting day would have on our children. After being away from home for a month, campers want to see their parents. The idea of visiting day is that children have the opportunity to show their parents around camp, demonstrating what life is like there. If I showed up without my ex-husband, wouldn’t that, in a significant way, defeat the purpose of the day? My ex-husband wouldn’t get to see the children in action at camp, even if they had already described to him what it was like in letters and on phone calls. Despite bringing my mother and stepfather, my children’s grandparents, along, I knew there would still be a hole in our crowd that only my ex-husband could fill.
Although I was excited to see my children, part of me began to dread that first visiting day. In the weeks leading up to it, I stayed up at night worrying. Notwithstanding my worries, the day finally came. As planned, I packed up my car and set out on the long drive. Bringing my mother and stepfather along was a good choice as my children were thrilled to see us all.
When I inevitably asked how my children felt about their father not being there, they began boasting about how he would be coming up to camp the next day to take them out for lunch and to the movies and then to Walmart to buy even more treats. To my surprise, they seemed perfectly content with this plan. The way children of divorce often have two Christmases instead of one, so too were my children going to have two visiting days instead of one: double the sweets, but also as I realized, double the love.
Being reminded of my ex-husband’s visiting day plans and witnessing my children’s acceptance of said plans, made me feel more secure with my first camp visiting day as a newly single mom. Visiting day wasn’t incomplete as I had initially believed it was going to be. Instead, it became one of two days we spent celebrating our children having a fun summer away from home.
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