jen groeber: mama art

4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.

Summer Camp, All Alone

Kids in yard

Going to camp, still full of energy
July 2015

This week is camp week. You know the kind I mean. You slather four children in sunscreen, pack four bags with yesterday’s damp swimsuits and towels, and then send them off into a world replete with gimp, archery, tie dye, face painting, swim, obnoxiously loud camp songs, band-aids and yes, sunburns.

Tired butterfly girl  July 2015

Tired butterfly girl
July 2015

At the end of each day, I walk past the cars in the pickup line and stand near the pickup place and watch as four sweaty, exhausted children stumble towards me, asking for water, brandishing band aid covered elbows and thrusting their bags at me, which now only contain half of a swimsuit or no water bottle.

It’s heaven I tell you. Especially since most summer days with my husband at work mean summer at a summer camp of five- four kids and a forty-four-year-old camp counselor, me- for swimming, crafts, biking and so on. Except I don’t get paid and there’s no hot boy counselor for me to check out all day.

I’ve been looking forward to this week all summer.

I had big plans for this week.

And so far I’ve had an appointment with my OB (that was so close to requiring Demarol, that he said, “You’re little, but you’re tough.”), gone grocery shopping, had my mustache waxed (it’s blonde, but it’s persistent), picked up our farm share, made two prints, finally registered my kids for school (only a month late!), and taken a shower. All by myself!!

Mostly it’s been an amazing relief. Showering on my own, with no one to watch me or sit on the toilet five feet away yelling, “Wipe my butt!”, that’s like a spa day. I even had time to shave my legs. And the mustache waxing and OB goes without saying. There’s no way my sons could have un-seen that.

But the grocery store and the farm share?

Quite honestly, it made me miss them. I like doing word problems in the bread aisle (if you can get two loaves for five dollars, how many loaves could you get for fifteen?!) and working through the alphabet together. I like how they ask for weird fruit (star fruit anyone?) and how people would (mostly) comment how good they were.

I’d push this huge grocery cart with all four kids somehow attached to it, and we’d have an adventure. Or even last year when it was just Cabot and me rushing between her pickup at preschool and her siblings’ pickup from kindergarten and first grade. We’d sing through the aisles and pick out treats and she’d compliment all the extremely odd people we’d see at the store.

“I love your eyebrows!” she said to the woman with no eyebrows and robin’s egg blue eye shadow up to her forehead. “I love your cowboy boots,” she said to the woman in the wheelchair with no teeth wearing pink cowboy boots. She made me see the grocery store in a new way, in a more attentive, present way.

And we’d pass all the other moms and kids in our own superlative way, me and $250 worth of groceries and four monkeys hanging off the cart. No one could beat us. Old people loved us. Store employees were pretty nice to us, and other moms were like, “Life could be worse than pushing two kids through the grocery store. I could be her, with four kids. Ack! She must be a superstar!” (Superstarrrrrrrrr. Jazz hands.)

Me picking blueberries

Picking blueberries
July 2015

When you go to the grocery store or the farm market alone, life doesn’t happen like that. Yesterday it was just me picking blueberries, me loading up on strawberries or bananas or star fruit. Not better, not worse, but different… and quieter for sure. This week there was more inside, less outside. I thought thoughts. I didn’t say a single word through 16 aisles.

This is me getting ready for September when all my kids head off to school for the first time. They will be having their days. I will be having my days. I will shop alone. I will have no excuse for not showering.

I will have crossed over. I am preparing to cross over.

Yes, when camp is over on Friday this week, I will re-dedicate myself to the camp of five (six on the weekends) to the beach days and bike rides and play dates and playgrounds, to the remaining days of summer.

And today at 3:30 I will put on my sneakers and walk up to the front of the camp pickup line alone. I will bring Popsicles with me for the walk home. I will ask them questions, I will check their bags for wet bathing suits, their elbows for new band aids, and I will wait for them to share their days with me.

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14 comments on “Summer Camp, All Alone

  1. Smiles on face and heart reading this.
    (With a dash of jazz hands!)

    • jgroeber
      August 4, 2015

      So good to see you here! And yes to jazz hands. (Always jazz hands.)

  2. kellylmckenzie
    July 30, 2015

    “Not better, not worse, … just different.” Yes. That is my life now with my two in college. And I’m sorry to tell you this … the shoes still go missing. Even when the owner is 18. Last summer my son came back from the one night swim club sleep over (he’s a coach remember) to inform me he was “missing a shoe.” Two shoes were outside his tent when he went to sleep, only one there in the morning. Searched everywhere. Sadly, not found. After three months I gently placed the remaining shoe in the trash. Fast forward to last week. Guess what plopped out of the rolled up sleeping bag? A tired, very squished, once missing shoe …

    • jgroeber
      August 4, 2015

      I saw the photo of that blue shoe on your blog! Brilliant! Of course, stories like that turn me into an even bigger hoarder. It’s why I never get rid of those lonely socks each week. Because as soon as you do, you find the other one!
      Sigh. It goes all to fast (and too slow, too.)

  3. Ann St. Vincent
    July 30, 2015

    The bliss of a solo shower 🙂

    Your writing makes me smile. I don’t have four kids; just one, who I’m back to only having every other week…but I can still relate 🙂

    • jgroeber
      August 4, 2015

      Who doesn’t love the long, quiet shower? It’s universal bliss I suspect.

  4. It seems crazy to say this to you now, but treasure every moment, build the memories for the days to come when your teenagers will become people in the same house with different ideas. My daughter went away to camp for two months when she was eight years old. I visited her upon occasion,only to realize that she really didn’t need me as she had a whole other life there. When she came home, the first thing she asked was, “Can I go back next year?” The next year we had moved, but she attended a daily summer camp and loved that, too. When she was seventeen, eighteen, and nineteen, she was a camp counselor in the summers. Camping was an experience that really “took.” Perhaps it will with your brood as well.

    • jgroeber
      August 4, 2015

      Lovely comment. It’s what I most hope for and most fear. Giving them wings. Sigh.
      And camping as a version of independence is one I can get behind. We’ll see if it’s in their future. Fingers crossed!
      Thanks for your thoughtful words.

  5. Dawn Quyle Landau
    July 31, 2015

    Man have you earned it darlin’! Enjoy this test run and then when Sept comes, fly! xox

    • jgroeber
      August 4, 2015

      Yes, yes. I’m already putting your inspiration to good use. Thank you for that, my lovely.

  6. afthead
    August 2, 2015

    I bow to you, mom who takes four children to the grocery store. My single kid hates the grocery store. I think it’s a recessive gene or something, because my mom hates it too. I have always loved the grocery store, and even with a scavenger hunt my kiddo won’t behave. You deserve your jazz hands! I love your post. You capture the poignancy of growing up so well. (Be fair though. Isn’t it dreamy to go to the bathroom alone?)

    • jgroeber
      August 4, 2015

      Ha! It never occurred to me that there could be a genetic marker for the grocery store. I love it! They don’t always love going (they often don’t, actually) but I do sort of enjoy having them along.
      Long showers and using the bathroom alone- who knew they’d become such lovely treats?!
      Thanks for commenting!

  7. lafriday
    August 4, 2015

    I had an only, but my two nieces visited several summers for weeks at a time. I loved the bustle. Now, they are all grown with lives of their own. Having time to take a shower without an audience is great, but what I wouldn’t give for another glimpse of those small chatty girls and the joyous clamor once again. Enjoy these waning weeks of summer and the last cacophonous sounds of a house full of short people.

    • jgroeber
      August 4, 2015

      Ah, thank you for the thoughtful reminder. I know, I know. I’m always so torn. They drive me crazy in the moment and then ten seconds later I feel like I could cry because they’re growing old so fast. (And then I look down at myself and wonder if I’ve done enough of my own growing in the meantime.)

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This entry was posted on July 30, 2015 by in Surviving Motherhood, The Children, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , .

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