Mama Madison: The rhythm of the house

What happens when one of the siblings takes off for a while

I'm not sure who was more excited about my 12-year-old heading off to overnight camp this week, him or me. He was drooling with anticipation at the chance to shoot a bow and arrow, hang out 24/7 with a few of his best (and hopefully some new) friends and drink whatever the 2012 version of bug juice is at every meal. Oh, and did I mention it is a co-ed camp? He's entering a pre-teen paradise.

But as we painstakingly took a Sharpie to the tags of his ratty t-shirts (I have no idea why I label these things, I'd be more than fine if we lost most of them), I realized I was pretty darn stoked for this week as well.

Because as much as I will miss him--and I will---I always look forward to being down a kid, at least for a short period of time.

It really doesn't matter which kid is away; there are pros and cons to each constellation of remaining offspring. But whenever at least one of them is gone, the whole rhythm of the house changes in a way that I always find refreshing. When my oldest was away for a week earlier this summer, for instance, I got the chance to see my two younger kids forge a new and intense bond. Who cares that the giggles and inside jokes they shared were over silly YouTube clips of kittens and puppies, videos they rarely get to watch when jockeying with their older brother for command of the computer. The week he was gone they took their siblinghood to new level and it was a pure pleasure to see.

And when my youngest, the only girl, is off at a sleepover party, I get a one-night taste of what it must have felt like to be Gladys Knight, surrounded up by her Pips. A strong woman backed up by three guys (if you include my husband), but without all the singing.

This week the youth noise level in the house will be diminished by a third. There will be less waste in both in the garbage and recycling cans. And nothing, and no one, will smell like Axe body spray, the unfortunate aerosol security blanket of middle school boys these days.

We will eat tomato soup and meatloaf for dinner--two foods my camper son isn't crazy about. I'll go on a movie date with my oldest son while my husband simultaneously has one with my daughter. The symmetry of just two children is perfect for this kind of thing. There might even be room for me to actually lie down on the couch at night.

I know I shouldn't rush things. I just realized last week that the next time the Summer Olympics roll around my oldest will be a kind of visitor in the house, home on college summer break. If he even comes home. The whole "down one" thing, but for weeks instead of days on end, will be here in the blink of an eye. And I'll be longing for the days of squished sofa time.

But I plan to relish this week, nonetheless. Because Meatloaf (the man, not the food) was right. (Sometimes) Two out of three ain't bad.

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