Aaron suddenly knows how to play ping pong. When I asked, ‘where did you learn that?’ he shrugged and said ‘camp’. This year, for the first time, my 12 year old kid, who happens to have Down syndrome, spent four days at an overnight camp called Zajac Ranch. What happened over that week in July? Other than his newfound ping pong skills and a certificate for winning the talent contest with his breakdancing routine, I have absolutely no idea.
Ah, the many mysteries of summer camp. What happens at camp stays at camp. And that’s the way it should be.
Aaron is embarking on his own Project Independence – separating from his parents, just as his older siblings did. Summer camp was my first step at letting go. My son arrived back home so proud of himself, so brimming with confidence – I do not want to damper his spirit by suffocating him with all my own anxieties about his safety and my identity. Down syndrome or no Down syndrome, my main job now is to encourage Aaron to continue to spread his wings and fly.
My most challenging task as the mom of adult children was allowing myself to unravel from their lives so that they could be free. Aaron’s extra chromosome adds an additional complexity…or does it? Maybe that’s just an excuse for maternal over-protectiveness, for hanging on tightly to my third and final child so that my nest is never empty. What if it isn’t about me – it is about him? There’s so much to ponder and be mindful about parenting an adolescent child. I pause here and take a deep breath – the teenage years of mom-heartbreak have already begun.