Letting Go… With A Death Grip!


Summer time can go so slowly for kids if you don’t have enough things for them to do. When my boyfriend Jeff and I discovered that there was still room in a top notch basketball camp this summer we jumped at the chance to send my 12 year old son Nicholas. The price was amazingly inexpensive but Nick was a bit hesitant. It took some convincing but he was okay with the idea.

I’ve gone to several types of camps in my childhood so sending my son to camp was a natural idea. I thought I’d be just fine. Overnight basketball camp for four days would be no sweat. He didn’t seem very excited at first until the college sent him a personalized letter that had his practice and drill schedule as well as the open gym and pool times. Ever since that letter he couldn’t wait to go… until this morning.

We followed the letter precisely with what to pack. We took that list and checked it twice and made sure everything was there. He seemed a bit unsure.

“Are you nervous? I know sometimes you can be a bit shy around new people,” I asked him.

“Yeah, I’m a little nervous I guess. In my school I’m a good player but they’ll all be good players at camp,” he says.

“Well, that’s why people go to camp, Nicholas. It’s to improve your game and learn from incredible NCAA coaches. Your game will be better and you will be better, trust me.”

He smiled but I don’t think he fully believed me. We took off for the school and he was pretty silent on the drive. I was waiting for him to ask me to turn the car around because he wanted to go home. He never did.

We arrived at the college and there were a ton of kids there with their parents waiting in line to register and get the dorm assignments. I could see in his eyes that he was changing right in front of my face. His excitement was growing at an alarming rate. We get him all set up and ask if he would like a little help in getting his room together. He agreed and I stopped myself from leaping with joy.

We find his room at the end of the hall and when I open the door my heart sank. Three twin loft beds, three underbed desks, three underbed bureaus and my son looks so small next to the height of all the furniture that’s designed for college kids. I didn’t want to leave. I was thinking that maybe Nick didn’t have any roommates and Jeff and I could sleep in the other loft beds. Irrational, I know!

“Quick hug me,” he says. “Hug me before anyone gets here.”

He gives me a huge hug. I can feel in that hug how he’s caught in between emotions too. He wants to hug me like a little boy hugs his mother but he also doesn’t want to expose that gentleness to whomever could open the door and make fun of him for hugging his mama.

“Nick, there isn’t anyone here yet. Let us help you get the bed together and put your stuff away. Okay?”

He agreed and Jeff starts on the bed and I start putting his clothes in the bureau. I look over at Nick and he’s staring at me in a way that says PLEASE STOP but he’s not uttering a word.

“Nicholas, I promise to immediately drop your underwear if someone opens that door… but until then I’m putting them away.”

We get the bed together; the clothes are away, the alarm clock positioned and the fan ready for the evening. Nick knows how to use the ancient combination lock to get in and out of the room. There’s nothing left to do but leave. I don’t want to go. Nick is ready to burst out into the scene and take advantage of the 45 minutes of free time before his first scheduled event. I feel like there are bricks in my feet.

Jeff knows exactly what I’m thinking. “Let’s get going. Have fun Nick, see you in a few days.”

After I drill him about our phone numbers and emergency contact information I hug him like it may be the last hug of my life and I let him go. We walk out of the dorm together and the car is to the right and the gym is to the left. One more high five and off he goes. Part of my soul wants to run with him. I want to watch him in the gym. To make sure he’s okay.

“I know you want to follow him, but you have to let him go,” Jeff says.

He’s right and I know he’s right. We head across the beautiful campus on a perfectly sunny day and head to the car and I just watch my son with a look of wild eyed excitement run across to the gym.

As he strides away he is opening a new chapter of his life experiences and at the same time I am closing one of mine.

tags: camp, summer, sleepaway, overnight, basketball, parents, kids, fear, letting go, nervous, proud

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