Since that moment the ultrasound tech announced, “It’s a boy!” I’ve been committed to raising an incredible man. A man who knows his own mind and chases the One who gave it to him. Who models his heart and self after his Maker’s heart and self. I’m not a mom who keeps the apron strings tightly tied or keeps her chicks close to the nest. I’m raising a leader here. Two of them, actually. He has a little sister.
And then came the first sleep-away camp.
Four weeks. Thirty-two days, to be exact.
Jumping in with both feet.
At ten years old, my firstborn eagerly anticipated attending the same sleep-away camp in North Carolina that his father enjoyed for four blissful childhood summers over twenty years ago. Tales of swimming, sliding, hiking, and shooting filled our home, inciting visions in young Anderson’s vivid imagination that could not be denied.
He wanted to go at nine.
I said no.
Not because of the apron strings or umbilical cord, but because he wasn’t ready. Moms know these things.
This year, though, I felt pretty sure he was ready.
Until we arrived at the camp. Oh my goodness, what a place. Running water was the biggest luxury the place could claim. “Cabins” more aptly described as “shacks” or “shanties.” Hanging on to their stilt-leg foundations by a prayer. Gang “showers” with shower-heads that even Lowe’s has the decency to not sell.
My modest boy changes in his bedroom with the door closed. How would he handle showering with eight strangers every day? And then sleeping in a room with five more of them? I eyed the “mattress” of his bottom bunk, fairly certain the bubble mailers I use to send books to clients had more padding.
My son’s face also registered misgivings. My mama heart and mind went into overdrive. Ready? Not ready? I hid on a hill and peered through the trees as he stood with other pale-skinned boys in front of the freezing pond chosen for their swim test. Some jumped in – loud, so loud, covering their panic and fear with voices that hadn’t yet deepened into manhood – while others paced the makeshift deck, casting furtive glances to the water and counselors, gauging if this test really had to be taken right here, right now.
My boy elected to take the test another day, in a pond they promised would be warmer.
I wondered anew. Ready? Not ready? I had the camp leader get him from his cabin and bring him to me. We set off down the gravel path across from the freezing swimming hole. I showed him where I’d spied on him. Asked him if he’d felt scared. (Yes.) Disappointed in himself for not taking the test. (Yes.)
And then I turned and faced him full on.
“You’ve had a taste of this place. You want to do this? You feel ready to do this?”
I watched him fill his lungs, chest expanding – a chest so much wider now than that day they’d placed his 7lb frame in my waiting arms.
He gave one nod. Short. Quick. Hard. “I can do this.”
Mama pride filled my chest and I fought tears. “Yes, you can.”
We walked back to the camp leader and I handed him over with a fast hug and soft, “I love you.”
I drove away thinking of Hannah taking her newly-weaned son, Samuel, to the temple and leaving him to be raised to serve God. How did she do that? What a woman. A real mother.
I sent Anderson his first letter today, along with the bar of soap he forgot in the van. (Did Hannah send Samuel care packages?) I made sure to let him know I’m proud of him. That he doesn’t have to choose between growing up and pleasing me. The two are synonymous. I told him, “My job as your mama is to discern the moments for testing and the moments for resting.”
My boy is on a grand adventure that will come with testing. He’ll come home a little less boy, a little more young man.
And I’ll walk the path a million other moms have walked before me. Raising our baby boys into astounding men. Goodness, it’s not for the faint of heart.