My younger daughter attended two different sleepover camps this summer—and I've learned next to nothing about what she actually did at either one. I’m trying to use this situation as an opportunity to practice Stoicism… an approach I’m sure I will need as a mom to two children slowly separating from their parents.
When I asked my daughter for specifics about camp after picking her up from the bus stop, I got few answers. In fact, I was told to stop asking. "Mom, sleepover camp is supposed to be for kids,” she explained from the back seat of the car, her face red with annoyance. “Parents don’t have to ask a lot of questions.”
Thanks to her sister, who attended one of the camps along with her, I did find out one intriguing detail about her July experience: my daughter became famous as the "magical potato hopper." Through a few more probing inquiries I learned what that meant. A hopper gets food to those dining at camp, and my child had “magically” produced more potatoes for older campers who requested them. Her bright red hair also seemed to have something to do with it.
Then, out of my daughter’s duffel bag came a mess of purple yarn wrapped around 3 twigs. Was this evidence of fun had and experiences gained? To me, it (sadly) looked like trash, and my first impulse was to throw it away. Only when I saw her friend’s version did I finally understand it was meant to be a dream catcher—which was the name of the camp theme that week. I never would have guessed!
Letting go as our kids become individuals, as they learn independence, as they outgrow the need (and desire) for us to constantly monitor their environment and behavior is one of the hardest parts of modern parenting.
We've been taught that as moms we can never care too much, never do too much for our children. But that can come at the cost of allowing our kids the space to develop into their own people. There comes a time to allow them that breathing room, and in many ways that time can come sooner than we are ready.
Stoic thinking teaches that we should not buy into the illusion of control over anything other than our own actions, thoughts, and feelings. We need to remember that there are many things outside our power, chief among them other people's behavior. Even that of our own children.
And that was proven by history––after all, illustrious Stoic emperor Marcus Aurelius' own son Commodus became a hated emperor, depicted as a monster in the 2000 movie Gladiator. (Historians have poked holes in the film, but at least one contemporary historical source recorded that Romans rejoiced when Commodus was murdered in his bath.)
I don't expect my children to get into world domination when they grow up—at least I hope not. All I can do is to hope that they will employ the values and lessons that my husband and I taught them whenever they are far from home, whether it is a camp in through Sierras or along the California coast, or at school, or later at work or play in the "real world."
I guess if my daughter can become a magical potato hopper, helping others while still expressing her own genuine self, I think we are off to a pretty good start. And even if I never find out all the details, I know a few things: she wasn't too homesick, she came back safe, and she said she had fun—evidence that she found joy in what she did far from her parents.
About The Stoic Mom
I'm Meredith Kunz, a writer, editor, and mom to two daughters in Northern California on a journey to discover how Stoic philosophy and mindful approaches can change a parent's - or any person's - life.