There was a time when S wanted to wear Cinderella shoes with his friends, at dress up. Why wouldn’t he? They are cool looking and sparkly and fancy and fun.

Then one day, he figured out “Those Cinderella shoes are for ladies.” It happened overnight. Literally. He wore them in the house one night and then in the morning said they were for ladies.

Fine. They are, of course made for little girls… but why??? Because mostly girls choose to wear them. Right?  We know there’s no law saying boys can’t wear these shoes too. And yet, it’s not very acceptable. I love it when I see parents who are accepting.

Who was the crazy man who invented high heels for women only??

Recently, Spense asked for a watch like his friend Sarah’s. “But not a girl watch. Sarah has a pink watch for girls. I want a boy watch.”

Here was my chance to teach my son the way I want the world to be. “Spense, there’s no such thing as a girl watch or a boy watch. A watch is a thing. It’s just a watch. Maybe more girls like the pink watch, but it doesn’t mean a boy couldn’t like the pink watch. Get it?”

He understood.

“Then I’d like a watch that’s not pink,” he said.

“Thank you. That’s wonderful,” I replied. (My dad would think this was nuts of me, BTW)

A month or so later we were at a restaurant. I was taking Spense to the bathroom and he started to walk into the men’s room.

“Oh, Spense, I can’t go into this bathroom, because it’s the Men’s bathroom. I need to take you into the Ladies’ bathroom, so I can go in with you.”

“Mom,” he said, with an eye-roll in his voice. “There’s no such thing as a Men’s bathroom or a Ladies’ bathroom.  There are just bathrooms!!!”

I couldn’t argue. He isn’t wrong.

And now I know he really listens to me!!

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Day 5
“Last day of camp!” I said in the morning.
“Yay!” He said though I wasn’t sure if he was happy to go or happy it was almost over.
“I’m going to wear my ring so everyone knows I’m married,” Spense said. You’d think it was a dig at his single mom- but it wasn’t, at least not consciously.
When we arrived at camp, I was beyond thrilled to see my good friend, John, a dad of one of the campers. Apparently he knew all there’s moms who hadn’t been super friendly to me all week.  Now, as John’s friend, these moms welcomed me with hugs and smiles.
I mentioned to the group that I was staying all day through camp. “I guess I’m the only one who does that here.”
“Oh no, I did that at the beginning and my child is 9,” a newly friendly mom friend said.
“I did it all through kindergarten,” my good dad friend said.
That was crazy of me to think I was the only one who hung out all day. Of course others did it…
When camp was about to begin I pointed to the far bench “I’ll be there,” I said.
“No, there,” he said pointing to the close one.
Fine with me.
A few minutes in to camp a counselor ran over to me with Spense’s wedding ring. It was getting in the way of the circle games.
After 2 hours my friend Tim met me. When S left for the daily hike Tim and I hiked a different path then ate some lunch and chatted. I was grateful for his company and the distraction.
When we got back to camp Tim asked if I wanted to run to Costco for the next 90 minutes. “Look at him. He’s fine. He’s not even looking for you. ”
I knew I could go. “But I told him I wouldn’t leave the park.”
So Tim let and I listened to my audible book on the far away bench.
With 30 minutes left of camp the councilor pulled out a guitar and started singing. The kids interacted shouting out words and doing a little dance.
This was good. I’m glad I gave S this experience. I’d spent 20 hours in this park -mostly sitting. What had I done with myself? Not too much. I mean, I’d watched my son, which to me was a good use of my time. And… I wrote this camp series.

Had I needed to be here?
No. Probably not. Should I had gotten a little more exercise while I was there? Yes.
Camp is over and Spense is red faced and sweaty. He’s dirty and dusty. He met new people and explored nature.
But… I liked camp. I’m glad I went.

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Day 4
He didn’t eat much in his lunch at all, yesterday. So today I gave him fruit leather and cucumbers and bagel with cream cheese. I mellowed out on all the produce.
We were late to camp again.

I walked him into camp. One counselor told me that yesterday they’d seen 2 rattle snakes mating in their path. I tried not to freak out but I dropped his sunscreen stick in the sand.  “We will take a different route today,” she told me and whisked him off to let him use their stick and I told S “I’m going to move my car.”
I took my time returning. A half hour. When I got back he was dancing in a circle. I waited to see if he was looking for me. He wasn’t.
I sat at a far table behind a play structure- a little closer than the far place. If S was looking for me, he’d be able to see me here.
Another couple was already seated at this table so I picked the farthest spot from them.
“So… What kind of games do you like?” the dude asked the lady.
Oh. They were on a date. Fantastic.
Seriously. Awesome.
The woman was quiet. She shrugged.
“Chess? I bet you’re good at chess.”
She shook her head.
“No? You don’t play chess? But you are so smart with all your degrees…”
I watched my boy dancing his little dance I loved so much- his elbows pumping up and down, legs practically jigging.
He never looked for me. Even when the group went to the bathroom we didn’t see me.
I tried to position myself so he could see me on his way back. After all I had told him I’d go sit on the close bench when I got back from moving my car. Did he think I’d left him? Did he think I’d lied? Was I reading too much into it?
When he ran back from the bathroom he seemed great- playing and interacting with kids. I waved. He didn’t see me. He seemed fine.

I  resumed my audible murder mystery.
After a while of my kid happily forgetting all about me (and for all he knows I’m lying in a ditch somewhere) the group lined up for their hike.
I got a phone call that distracted me as they took a trail in a different direction. Oh god.  Trust. Relax. It will be ok. Fuck. They were gone forever. Snakes. Rattlesnakes. And that’s not me being crazy. That’s real. There are rattlesnake sightings and warnings.
Where are those shirts? Looking for those bright orange shirts. Come on. Come back.
A very young couple walked by. “I didn’t know a valley girl was a real thing.” He said. “Is that like a Malibu valley girl?”
Another group by walked by me talking about the drought.
Another group walked by talking about going through dead relatives toiletries.
And then I saw the shirts.
Watching him from a distance chanting camp songs “I said a boom chick a boom…”
But seriously, was he worried about me? Did he think I’d abandoned him?
I got up to walk around and a couple took my new bench.
I watched S climb down a steep rock step then balance on the edge of a bridge. Had I’d been there I’d have stopped him as a fall would have lead to a skull cracking on a rock. But did it and didn’t fall. Then ran right by me.
He went back to camp.
A while later I went to the bathroom and on my way back he finally saw me. “Mom!!” He shouted.
I was thrilled. Too thrilled. I waved back and he went back to the project at hand. I went back to my bench.
The day felt long as I sat and listened to my book and walked around so I wouldn’t be sedentary. I wrote emails and looked up actors on my phone.
After camp S seemed happy. It only took 20 minutes for him to say “and why did you sit so far away?”
“There was someone at my close bench,” I told him.
“Oh,” he replied.

Tomorrow would be the last day of camp.

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Day 3
After the first day of camp, S was teaching me camp songs. Then the next morning, he woke up saying he couldn’t go to camp because he was too sick.
After 12 hours sleep I just didn’t think he was worse. I suspected something else.
“Let’s just go and we can tell them you won’t be coming. ”
I know when S is sick. He wasn’t. Yes he was sniffy but he was better. If this camp wasn’t so expensive maybe I would have let him stay home (though he’d be jumping off the walls because he’s not really sick.) I knew this was more about comfort levels and separation. He needed to push through. And so did I.

He conceded. Reluctantly. But got angry that I was bringing the lunch I’d packed him.
Driving over he told me he was looking forward to me telling the councilors that he was sick than going home to watch TV.
When we arrived he was greeted by the councilors. When they asked how he was, he pointed to me. I had him tell them he felt sick. “My nose is worse,” he added.

S chatted with the counselor he admitted that he was actually not sick but that he didn’t like it when Mommy sat so far away.

After much negotiating we agreed I’d sit closer but if he needed me he’d have to tell a camp counselor – not just run over. He agreed.

I sat a little farther away watching him participate – dancing, singing, playing the games. Waving to me occasionally.
Watching camp.   Happy to have my eye on my love.
S whispered to a councilor who walked him over to me.
“Thanks for following the rules, ” I told him.
“Mom, can you sit a yittle closer?” he was teary.
“I can,” and I did.

After a while the kids all went in a big group to the near by bathroom.
But I stayed. I tried to trust. I ended up having a nice chat with the head counselors. They reminded me of me back in the day with my children’s theater background.

They were serving nectarines at snack (even though later S told me later they’d had peaches.) We chatted a bit more and more ended up talking about the high costs of private schools. I heard myself saying “I’m a single mom… ”  Oh great, now the mom who can’t leave her kid is the single mom. Though I guarantee I’d be the same even if I were co parenting.
When it was time for the hike I waited for his little hand to wave me along, so I’d have to follow them. The hike was the part I dreaded leaving him the most. But he didn’t  turn around. He just hiked along with the group. Which was great. And awful.
I’m going to take a jog I decided. I need to move this body  I put on my Audible book on tape and I found myself jogging toward the hikers. I hid behind a tree for a bit. He’s fine.
Maybe the fact that my audible book began with the discovery of a murdered and mutilated 18 year old girl was making me more tense.
Then my phone rang. I picked up and headed for reception. My friend was having a problem and needed me.
20 distracted minutes later the hikers returned.  S waved at me and I waved back, pretending I hadn’t been worried.

I planted myself on the bench.

If I hadn’t stayed how would I know he was laughing all through lunch? And the last one to finish eating(shocker)? I wouldn’t have seen him bonding with new kids. And I wouldn’t have seen him shout to the whole group, as they circled on the mat  “Hey, what are you guys talking about?”
Omg. Why is he still eating his lunch? Why wasn’t 45 minutes enough?  I can’t wait to see if he ate everything.

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Last night I had a dream that all of these therapists were giving me books on why SEX is the most important thing in LIFE.

Then, magically, the last therapist morphed into a very attractive man….

and then I woke up.

I wonder what that dream means?

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Day 1 of Camp was a no go.
S started sniffling and sneezing the night before so he just stayed home with me and we were snugly and relaxed in the air conditioning. And I was glad not to go to camp.

I don’t talk about my worries much because I just get the dreaded “He’ll be fine.” Like there’s something wrong with me that I don’t know this.
Telling me “he will be fine” makes me want to scream my head off. “Don’t  worry” and “relax” do that too.

Don’t say it. It’s not reassuring. It’s condescending.

Drives me nuts.

Day 2
The cold is better – not send to school better but yes day 2 of very expensive, super fantastic camp better.

In the car he asked me if I’d stay. I said I would. (cheering inside)
When I taught kids drama classes I wanted parents to leave. I knew the kids would be ok- even better- without parents around.
Fuck that.
This is my child and I want to watch him and he wants me there. I want to watch him discover things, make friends and get dirty. I like watching his little twig legs leap around covered by a much too big size small shirt. I adore watching him do ninja moves for no reason or sneak around or spin or jump. I just love to observe him. I love to hear his little voice announce to the class “I don’t have a tree at my house” or watch him collect sticks as the other kids just walk.

At camp I met the lovely counselors, already engaged in song. After introductions I sat down at a bench near by.

As I watched S having fun, I felt happy. There was no where else I needed or wanted to be.
He’d wave to me or come over to me to share “Matthew is here” or “did you see that?”

I was painfully aware of the counselors watching me. Were they judging me?
Each time S came over I’d smile and respond and then say “stay at your camp with your group. Stay with your counselors.”  Trying to make it clear that I am trying so hard to leave…. Ha! I’m a farce.
Then it was time for the campers to take a hike – m biggest fear was my 4 year old straying from the group on a hike in a huge park. With pervs and snakes and cliffs and broken bottles. Oh yes, I can imagine endless treacheries. Maybe I need to write some horrific fiction to exercise my mind demons.

As the kids left for the hike, S motioned for me to follow.
See, it’s not my fault I’m hovering – S needs me. He is not okay without me.
I followed close behind and S kept motioning for me to come closer. I’d shake my head and mouth “I’m good here. You have fun.”
My inner monologue was my defense as I imagined the counselors were whispering about me:
Well, he just needs to know I’m close by. I’d leave but he’d cry.  Believe me, I used to teach, I know it’s better if I leave.
Then it became: It’s my kid and my life. If I want to watch him on a hike with 25 other kids I can. I’m paying a lot of money for this. I can watch. Hey it’s a free park – you going to arrest me for hanging out near my own kid?
Why am I the only mom hanging out?
What happened to “its a parents job to worry,” or “you can never be too careful,” or “better safe than sorry.”

I sat on a bench, as he went to the bathroom with the group and a counselors or two. He beckoned for me to join him.
“No no,” I said. “I’m just watching.” He reluctantly went ahead.
What were the bathrooms like? Gross? Who was helping him? Were park pervs around?  He disappeared out of my sight.
I waited. I tried to see his little frame down the trail. In a few minutes I saw some tiny feet and mop of red hair walking towards me. Alone. Not with the group. Not with a counselor. No. No. That’s not good.
He ran towards me.
“You can’t leave the counselors! You can’t leave the campers!”
“But ma…”
“No honey. They might think you are lost. We have to go back to them.”
I took his hand to take him back to the bathroom.
“Evie!” The camp director saw me.
I told her how S got away from the pack – unnoticed by the counselors.
She walked S back to the bathroom to join the group.

She’s going to tell me to leave. She’s going to tell me that the whole reason he left the group was to see me.  It’s true. But I need to watch. I want to stay.
S joined his deserted group then the camp leader came back to me.
“I’m so sorry,” she said to me. She seemed horrified. “That’s never happened before- where a camper got away from the group.”
She didn’t blame me. She didn’t shame me for distracting my son.
And yeah, it wasn’t trust building that my child escaped the gazes of the counselors and walked all the way back unnoticed. And it doesn’t really matter that it was because I was sitting there. It’s just the fact that it happened.*
*Like the time security at the Burbank airport didn’t catch the butterfly knife I had in my purse as it went through the metal detector (yes it was pre 911). The point was not why I had a deadly weapon in my purse (that’s a whole long other story) but the fact that it wasn’t detected.
When Spense came back with his group he walked over to us – still unaware that there was a problem.
“Sweetheart,” I began, “Do you understand that you need to stay with the counselors?”
“Or else we might think you got lost, ” she added.
Then I heard myself say “I think I should go across the street to those benches. So I don’t distract you.” No. No! Why was I doing this! Can I take it back? Panic.
“Which benches?” He asked, looking in the direction I pointed.
“Just over there. I think you are just having a hard time remembering to stay with the group so I should go.”
The counselor jumped in, “Is it OK if mommy goes? She will just be over there?”
He nodded, reluctantly. Then we hugged. He cried a little on my shoulder. I cried a little in my heart.
“Ok,” he whispered so bravely.
Crap! Now I’d done it. I guess it was the right thing to do. I walked away spying some benches a little closer to the ones I’d promised to go to, yet still too far for him to see me and run to me. There I’d stay.

I sat behind some trees and behind a play structure. I couldn’t see him specifically, just a sea of bodies and bright orange tee shirts. Oh yeah, and the other redhead kid. I kept seeing the other redhead.  I trusted that after my kid got away from the counselors they will keep an extra sharp eye on him.
Can’t wait for it to be over.

And then, we do it all again tomorrow

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I’ve been having trouble sleeping lately. I think it’s because I signed Spense up for Summer Camp.

Of course, it’s supposed to be a great camp – I’ve been hearing wonderful things about it for a year now. It sold out quickly and I felt lucky to get in…

But now, just hours away from taking my precious 4 year old to a park for a 5 hour day with people I don’t know I’m wondering… why did I sign him up for this???

He’d going to want me to stay close by and I want to stay close. The thought of leaving him alone right now it making me so nervous. He’s 4!

Why did I sign up?

Will he even like it?

I just thought he should be exposed to some outdoorsy play. Sing some songs. learn some games….

They will let me stay, right? I mean, it’s a park. Anyone can hang out there. I will just stay.

He was sniffling before bed. Maybe he will have a cold tomorrow. Is it bad to hope he has a cold tomorrow???

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At bedtime, my 4 year old boy said to me, “Mom, when you snuggle me, I feel like a man.”

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Watching Night at The Museum.

S: Ma, I like that guy with the white hair.

Me: That’s Dick Van Dyke, he’s a great actor! You have such good taste.

S: Did you go to college with him?

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When we drive I’m always horrified at the inappropriate content on billboards.  Spense has boasted he’s not scared of anything. Until today…

Once, we saw this billboard:


S: Ma, look at that cool billboard.

Me: That’s really scary. Does it scare you?

S: No, not at all. I like it.

Another time, we saw this billboard:


S: Ma, look at that clown!

Me: That’s a scary clown.

S: No it isn’t! It doesn’t look scary to me.

Me: Really? I think it’s SO scary!

S: Not to me!

Then today, we saw this…


S: Ma! Oh my god! Look at that scary man or woman! Look! Do you see it??

Me: You mean the one with the ice cream?

S: Yes! It’s so scary!

Me: It’s supposed to be funny! She has ice cream on her face. She’s like the messy kids (he has a thing about the messy kids.)

S: It’s not funny! It looks like pink blood!

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