Letter to Camille: Chorus Days, Anteaters and Roller Coasters

Hello my sweet girl! It’s a Tuesday night, which means you are resting in your bed, dreaming sweet dreams about sheet music. That’s because tomorrow is Wednesday – a chorus day.

This school year you opted out of playing saxophone in the band, and wanted to try chorus instead. You were hooked from the very first day. One Saturday night not too long ago, as I was tucking you in, you sighed and said, “I wish today was Sunday so that tomorrow would be Monday.”

And I thought to myself … huh? Who wishes for Monday?

“Monday is a chorus day,” you explained. Ah, now I see.

Music dominates your extracurricular activities, because in addition to chorus, you are still playing viola in the community youth orchestra. Here you are on orchestra audition day, wearing one of your favorite t-shirts featuring an alto clef and the words “No, it’s not a violin.” I’m sure it earned you a few bonus points with the strings-playing judges.

When you’re not singing or playing viola, you can often be found drawing. You love drawing in the anime style, and I think you’ve gotten pretty darn good at it, too.

Let’s see how your drawing has evolved. Here is a self-portrait you drew in September of 2010, at age 4.

By the end of that pre-k school year, in May of 2011, your drawing had already improved quite a bit.

And here is a self portrait you drew a couple of weeks ago, at age 12.

The taco was a nice touch.

And when you’re not playing music, singing or drawing, you’re likely … texting or calling friends. Oh boy.

For quite some time you’ve been telling me you’re the only kid in your grade without a phone. And for quite some time it wasn’t true, because I knew for a fact some of your friends didn’t yet have phones. But one by one they’ve gotten connected recently, and now you really may be the only phone-less kid in your class (with the worst, most archaic parents. Poor you.).

It’s not as though you’re completely walled off from technology. You have an iPod and can message and Facetime with friends – you just can’t do this outside the boundaries of home without wifi. But at home, man oh man can you spend some time talking to your buddies. You and Michaela regularly Facetime, and you’ll carry your iPod around from room to room, talking about nothing and everything, doing homework together, doing nothing together.

It’s not that I’m totally opposed to you having a phone – I’m sure we’ll get you one sometime soon. I just haven’t been convinced yet that you really need one. And yes, there is a part of me that wants to delay as long as is reasonable. Do I really want you accessible to your friends at all hours of every day? And not just your friends, but also the dreaded “frenemies?”

It seems a cruel trick of nature that at the precise moment kids become extra sensitive and self aware, kids can also become mean and exploit each other’s sensitivities. So yes, I hesitate to throw a device in the mix that provides unlimited access to peers.

Of course, I know you will need the independence and the social connection that a phone provides, but I also want to help you learn to use that new freedom responsibly. So how much should your Dad and I monitor what happens on your phone? How much should we peek over your shoulder? We all must learn from mistakes as we navigate these early relationships – so how do we let you make the little mistakes but prevent the ones with long-lasting consequences?

If you asked 50 different parents these questions, I believe you’d get 50 different answers. So for now, your Daddy and I will do what seems right for you in this moment, and tomorrow we’ll decide about tomorrow.

At least for one weekend last month, you and Michaela didn’t have to Facetime your way through Saturday and Sunday because you had actual face-to-face time. You brought Michaela along on your belated birthday trip to Charleston, where we had tickets to a live show of your favorite podcast, “Welcome to Nightvale.”

You girls had a ton of fun at the show, and touring Charleston the next day. One of the highlights of the weekend was the stop we made at the home of some local exotic animal enthusiasts.

They had typical pets, like dogs and turtles and bunnies. But they also had a hissing, grumpy, lollipop-obsessed kinkajou.

And then there were the anteaters. They were neither grumpy nor lollipop-obsessed – all they wanted to do was sniff the yard for ants. The owner slipped a harness on Artie and let us all take turns walking him around the yard. Or perhaps more accurately, we took turns being dragged around the yard by a very stubborn anteater who didn’t care if he wasn’t supposed to go this way or that.

It was a lovely trip, although I confess that your Dad and I missed you at times. The older you get, the more you can be with us without being “with us.” It’s only natural that you’re less interested in hanging with ole ma and pa, and would rather hole up in a room with your friend as you simultaneously text and facetime even more friends. So we’re trying to be good about letting go.

But we were pretty pumped that we also had a second family outing that month – a long-awaited trip to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, just the three of us. And because you don’t have a phone yet so facetime wasn’t an option, we spent the whole day in the park together – really together. Well, except for that time you pledged your undying allegiance to the dark side…

You even rode your first looping coaster, the Rock-N-Roller Coaster. I sat in the car next to you, hearing your screams turn to laughs, and you loved it.

A roller coaster – these pre-teen and the coming teen years are often described this way. The highs are so high, and the lows can be so low, with plenty of stomach-dropping loops along the way.

But strap us in to the car – we’re ready to ride with you. I love you sweet girl.

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