The local Guiding District held a big fitness rally on Saturday that the girls were eager to attend. Since it took place on the Princess' birthday I let her make the decision about whether or not to go, and she was all pumped up about it for the weeks and days leading up to it. On Saturday both girls got up, got ready, and pushed me out the door. They were little bubbles of excitement and energy all the way there.
And then we walked in the gym.
I have no idea how many girls were there, but it was a large gym and it was pretty full. My girls froze up. As we sat with our District, the Princess began silently crying. "I just don't understand what's happening" she whispered. I tried to explain the plan for the day, but it was too late, she'd wound herself up. Sweetpea was picking up on it and climbing all over me looking for comfort.
Then they split us up.
I was unassigned because I had to leave before lunch, so I went with Sweetpea. She was cheery and excited, making friends in her usual way now that she was in a smaller group. Sweetpea loves small groups.
The Princess was bawling. She'd almost get it under control, then one of the older girls would pat her and give her a "there-there" and she'd be off again. The Princess actually feeds off of this sort of thing, and it's hard to find the balance. She can cry at the drop of a hat and will keep it up as long as it's getting her some attention. It only gets worse when there's a parent around. She ratchets up the performance to a drama level only previously seen in Hollywood. When I left Sweetpea to check on Princess, her leaders (who've seen this happen before at camp) shooed me away. I was torn, wanting to comfort her but wanting her to get over things and move on. I told her that I could see that she was fine, told her to have fun, and went back to Sweetpea.
The first activity was a series of stations set up in the gym that we rotated through. Every time I looked for the Princess she was standing, miserable, not wanting to participate. Eventually our Superleader took her by the hand and started walking her through each activity. In the meantime, Sweetpea was getting more and more frustrated. The gym was loud and you couldn't hear anything clearly. She was missing instructions at the stations and getting more and more upset. Eventually she was in tears too. I took her out of line and we did our deep breathing (it totally works for her). I told her that it wasn't a race. No prizes. It's just for fun. The reason we're here is to have fun. That's all. She thought about that for a second, brightened, and then started having fun. So did the Princess. Dragged through the activities, cheered on by teammates, realizing that mom wasn't going to come rescue her, she loosened up and started participating.
Then there was snack, and I had to leave.
After I left? They both had a blast. They were together, for one, and with their own unit for another, and...I was gone. My kids always do better without me. They always have, from the first time we dropped them off at nursery. Drop and run, they'll be great. Out of sight, out of mind. Stay where they can see me and they'll spend all of their time trying to get to me, or get my attention. I'm not sure what it is, but it always makes me feel like a failure as a parent. I mean, I want them to do well in the world. I'm glad that they don't suffer from separation anxiety or homesickness....but I really wish I knew what it was that makes them clingy and insecure when I'm around. By all reports they really, really shine without me. Why does that break my heart a little?
And you know what? I have the same problem with my own parents. I couldn't stand having them as teachers or leaders when I was a child (still can't, don't even like to be in a class with them). They never put the pressure on, but I certainly did. I couldn't do anything when they were watching, paralyzed with fear that I'd do something wrong and they would see and be disappointed. I love living so far away from them, because it gives me the freedom to be myself without feeling any need to live up to their expectations, real or imagined. I wanted different for myself and my own children, but I see it already. I enjoy these little people so much, I just want them to enjoy themselves as well, to relax and, yes, feel free to shine around me (us, Hubby's not immune). Is this genetic? Is it some universal parent-child dynamic I missed?
Ok, enough therapy. How about some terribly blurry photos I took while I was still there?
A giant game of leap-frog...
...the Princess has spotted me and is trying not to smile. Heaven forbid I catch her actually having fun!
Getting good and dizzy...
...a balancing act...
...and my favourite of the day...can they walk without the balloons dropping?
When I picked them up in the afternoon, btw, they were back to being bubbly and full of news of the amazing day they'd had. They can't wait to go back.
I'll be in recovery for awhile.