Somehow it never gets any easier. More manageable, but not actually easier.
I still ache when I leave him somewhere.
Yes, Junius is six-and-a-half (and we all know how critical that extra "half" can be). And yes, he's fine and will have fun and will somehow manage to stay safe without my hovering over him.
But knowing those things hasn't stopped the lump in my throat, the feeling of my heart dropping into into my stomach.
Last week it was hockey track-out camp, where he didn't know anyone. Even pumped up with shoulder pads and standing taller than usual on his ice skates, he seemed so little as he walked away. I loitered in the lobby, wondering if he might turn around and change his mind about staying. The camp lasted for five full days, but he asked me to pick him up after lunch each day -- and, of course, I did.
This week it's grandparent camp, where he gets to be the center of the universe for four days with my in-laws and then my parents. Today he practically pushed me out the door so he could have alone time with his grandmother. Every night this week I will call him before bed, listening to him recounting his day and helping me hold onto the illusion of tucking him in. Having only one child will make my week easier, but strangely lonely.
It's a cruel trick of parenting. When they're here, they are crazy, exhausting, unrelenting, needy -- some days I want nothing more than to walk away for an hour alone. But when they're gone, their absence doesn't bring simple relief -- although it does create a quiet that is welcome, for a bit, until it's not.
Already I know I will cry when he leaves for overnight camp, for college, for study abroad, for some job in another state. I will want him to do all of those things, will put on a brave face for him so that he will trust his decision to go, will be unreasonably proud of his accomplishments.
But it will not be easy watching him go.