Thursday 12 July 2018

Empty Nest

Usually I am a cold-blooded mother. When my kids went to school for the first time I did not shed a tear, I breathed a sigh of relief; finally some time for myself. I have never had any qualms about waving my kids off to school camp in Malaysia or Indonesia, or leaving them with grandparents for a second honeymoon in the Maldives. 

I had been eying this sailing school in Friesland near my parents’ holiday home for years. Their live-in full week camps were from seven years onwards, and I counted down. Roel had to work in London so I visualised me, in the holiday home, with my laptop, writing - other people not only entertaining my children, but also teaching them to sail. A useful skill to have when your grandfather has a fleet of boats, yet no one in the family has the patience or didactic skills to teach you. Sailing camps on the Friesian lakes are a not-to-miss part of any Dutch childhood. 

I have many good memories of spending weeks in ‘Valk’ boats, rain or shine (often rain in fact). I did mention to my kids, not too emphatically, the ‘sleep at home’ option the sail school offered. Of course two of them wanted to sleep there, so the third reluctantly agreed with my suggestion of ‘giving it a try, you can always call me if you really don’t like it.’ After all, she is only seven, and I am not that mean.

In the lead-up to the camp the kids were too busy being on holiday to even think about it, and I, mindful of the rainy camps of my childhood, spent my time ordering warm fleeces, wind and waterproof suits online. A week before the big day I started to get nervous. Weren’t they much too young to stay on their own for a full week? Our kids are the type that regularly get dragged to remote countries and homestays or whatnot without them batting an eyelid, so they just shrugged when I asked them if they were looking forward to the camp. 

We arrived in Goingarijp on a hot sunny afternoon. The staff was friendly, welcoming and also smart enough to throw the kids into a boat and onto the lake straight away so the parents had little choice but to wave and leave. Thankfully I had been stupid (or cunning) enough to forget to pack sailing shoes for them. They were sitting nicely on their shelf in Singapore. So the next day I strategically had to dropped new ones off in the late afternoon.

That night I had not slept well. Not being used to being all-alone in a house (too quiet, yet with eerie noises – who makes these?) I couldn’t sleep, so plenty of thought had ran through my mind. What if they hated it? What if they got homesick? What if the temperature dropped and they wouldn’t think of putting on the jackets? What if they did not have enough clean underwear for the week, shouldn’t I stop by halfway to pick up some laundry? In short, I was being a terrible … mother. 

I think you can imagine what happened when the kids saw me that afternoon. Nothing. They barely looked at me. They thanked me for dropping off the shoes and went about their business respectively playing games, reading comics, and having a shower. I needn’t have worried about the laundry – they hadn’t changed their underwear yet. After some begging from my side I got a quick hug and a kiss. A brief chat with the still friendly staff later I was back on my way.

So did I leave them alone after that? Of course not. I did sleep like a baby, but the next day when Opa and Oma arrived we did go out on the motorboat to have a trip around the lake. Me, spying on my kids? Never! I did however take a cute little video of them in their boats. For daddy in London. 

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