For the first time, outside of family trips, my oldest daughter went away to stay. She attended 4H camp for a week earlier this month.
There is a first time for everything, but for me this was different. I didn't shed a tear when she left town. My wife, on the other hand, bawled.
The camp is down in the eastern part of the state and she had to ride a charter bus for about two and a half hours to reach it. Among the many things she got to experience was rock wall climbing, fishing, archery, riflery and a host of other things. She was in a cabin with about ten to twelve other girls her age. We were told stories of late nights, practical jokes, good food, a bear and friendships made.
All week while she was gone I was bombarded with "Where's Abby?" from our middle child Katie. See, like I mentioned, Abby had never before gone away overnight so this was a first for the sister duo. If Katie asked once, she asked ten times an hour where her big sister was.
Jeb, the baby, didn't notice one way or the other. The dog noticed and spent time looking for Abby and camped outside her bedroom. I was a tad bit lost. But I made it.
From the time I signed her up and told her about camp, she constantly was asking for more information from me on the camp. Where it was, what she was going to do, who was going. I had some answers, but for the most part I kept mum. I wanted her to be surprised.
We were lucky enough to be able to see pictures and read the camp blog daily. Technology is so great for things like this. Daily, and sometimes more often, I checked the site to keep tabs on my oldest. I got to see her in the water, going crabbing and all dressed up for the dance. Yes, they had a dance too.
She was all worried about looking pretty for it. She packed a dress, earrings, pretty shoes and hair stuff. I inquired when she got home about the dance. I was told a little about it, including the fact that an older boy had asked her to dance. She filled me in as little as possible, it seems. Best this daddy doesn't know too much.
The day after the dance, they came back home. I waited patiently for the buses to arrive back at the 4H offices. Then I waited in line for my girl to disembark the bus. She made her way off. A bit tanner from all the sun, a bit wiser from all she learned and so much more grown up.
And then, I cried and shed my tears of happiness as my first born was back home.
Mike Slawter is the stay-at-home dad of two girls and a baby boy in Raleigh. You can follow him on his blog. He writes monthly for Go Ask Mom.