Let me tell you about how my 7-year-olds dealt with the prospect of being apart for part of the day during summer camp. The much uglier story of the mommy side of things will come tomorrow.
Twin separation anxiety is a real disorder. My kids do not suffer from the real thing, much as they might argue otherwise. My daughters have a classmate who cried every day of the first six months of kindergarten after being placed in a class separate from her twin sister. My kids are attached to each other, but not that attached.
During the final month of school, my first-grader daughters and I sat down with a collection of summer camp schedules and a calendar. M and J would be attending a full-day standard YMCA camp for most of the summer, but I allowed them to choose a few “special” camps. Their camp choices were almost identical, but J wanted to do cheer camp, which held no interest for M. The girls also chose to attend soccer camp, but in different weeks, and to attend cooking camp together. They also ended up spending a week at an art camp run by the local Girl Scout council.
Since M and J will be in the same classroom for second grade, I thought that their request to spend some time apart during the summer was a wise one. As it turned out, J’s cheer camp was the same week as M’s soccer camp.
When the Monday of the week for separate camps came, J suffered a bout of buyers’ remorse. “I don’t think this was a very good idea,” she told me. “I don’t want to be without M all day.” At my prompting, M offered her sister Polly, the stuffed panda M had bought with her own money at a recent field trip, to help J feel closer to her throughout the day. I reminded both the girls that they’d spend most of the afternoon together once the “special” camps were over. There was no comforting J.
I took M to the gym where soccer camp would be, signed her in, chatted with the coach, and walked out the door with J. 30 seconds later, J turned around and ran back to the gym to give M a hug. M was too deep in conversation with the coach to do much more than reach back and pat her sister on the shoulder. I did catch sight of J’s favourite Barbie peeking out of M’s backpack.
As we walked around the outside of the building to the conference room where cheer camp would be held, J looked at me tearfully. “This is a bad idea,” she said. “I’ve never been so far away from Sissy. At least her name is on my water bottle.” She sniffed dramatically.
I wasn’t about to let that slide. “Do you remember your special day? You were in Austin while M was in [north Austin suburb].”
“Oh, right. We were in different towns. I’m nervous. This wasn’t such a good idea.”
The conference room was empty, so we headed back outside to the fields to check in there instead. The first person we saw at check-in was a counselor from J and M’s afterschool program. She beamed at J, listing off 3 other counselors on site who J also knew. We chatted about our summers, and she suddenly asked, “Hey, J! Where’s your sister?”
“She’s at soccer camp. I’m doing cheer this week. Seeya!” She ran off to find the other counselors she knew.
At the end of her second day, J confessed to M, “Polly made my day so much easier. I showed her to [a friend from Girl Scouts], because she was in cheer camp with me and we were eating lunch together and she knows you and it made me feel better.” J also composed a letter to M’s soccer coach, asking M could be allowed to watch J’s end-of-week performance.