This is my kid’s second summer at overnight camp.

And he loves everything about it: the lake, zip line, rock wall, ropes course, nightly campfires, the open-air bunkhouses and lack of electricity, overnight canoe trips and cave exploring, mountain biking and archery. Understandably, it’s his happy place.

The day we picked him up last year was the day he started counting the days until he could go to camp again this year.

He even begged us to double his stay from one week to two.

We made a budget and gave him the green light. After all, camp was filled with time outdoors, exercise, friendship and fun. When we picked him up last time, I swear he stood taller and his voice deepened a bit. He was more independent and confident.

As a second-year camper, he was looking forward to being a leader and helper to the newbies. And he’s already thinking ahead to high school and the possibility of becoming a camp counselor. How could we refuse him?

I’ve learned that while summercamp’s an absolute dream for my 12-year-old, it’s an emotional roller coaster for me!

First comes the packing and repacking. Checking the list.

Do you have enough batteries? Bug spray? Did you pack any socks?

We spent 10 days buying and packing his gear only to discover the morning of drop-off that his raincoat was much too small, and we had to scurry for a quick replacement.

After dealing with his (ahem, and my) stress and jitters, the actual drop off, the emotional “goodbye,”  and POOF! He’s gone.

It’s time to relax. Go out with the Hubs. Enjoy the peace and quiet.

By Day 2, I’m keeping busy with the chores I’ve been putting off.

And I might just spend three hours shopping for the perfect care-package fillers. And then take the first parcel to the Post Office immediately, giving him ample time to use his new Uno cards and gobble up his favorite Doritos before camp is over.

And the rest of the time, I’m the epitome of pathetic.

Why did I send him away for so long? What if he’s hurt? Is he homesick? Should I check on him?

Suddenly, my Facebook feed is full of warnings about ticks and heat exhaustion, dangerous plants and even a toxic caterpillar. Seriously?!

I catch myself staring out the window, wondering, “What’s he doing right now?”

And then, I am not even kidding, I catch myself at night, looking up at the stars and humming, “Somewhere Out There” from the 1986 animated classic An American Tail.

I’m a mess, but there’s nothing I can do except wait and watch the mailbox for the little notes he will hopefully send, knowing I’m lucky if I receive a single one.

I’m counting the days and hours until he gets home.

And I have to remind myself, he’s in his happy place. When I pick him up, he’ll stand taller with more confidence, and he’ll already be counting the days until he can return next year.

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Jacqueline Miller

When not worrying about her teenagers, Jacqueline Miller is writing about them. Her recent work appears in Parents.com, HuffPost and The Christian Science Monitor. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

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