Tomorrow you leave for camp. Again. This time it's a legit four weeks, a true overnight experience and plenty of time for you to discover Bigfoot or The Meat Man or whatever version of the Boogie Man exists in Decatur, MI.
In my letter to you last year I talked about how much fun you could have and the things you should do. I certainly don't need to tell you how much fun overnight camp is since you've been counting down the days, even the hours, since school ended. Rather than writing you another letter full of fatherly advice that at this point you would probably ignore anyway, I thought I'd tell you what I'm going to miss while you're gone this summer.
1. Your smile. Pictures on a website don't do it justice, but smile nonetheless. If there is one picture on that site of you not smiling, it could send Mom into a "why is she not smiling?" episode.
2. Having B96 on in the car. I mean, how can I go a day without Ariana Grande three times an hour? I may have to sneak some. Same with Dance Moms.
3. Your face the first 10 minutes after you wake up. Half awake, cheeks red, eyes still deep with sleep. When you get too old for that first hug of the day its, well, its gonna be rough.
4. Watching how quickly your letters home progress from two full paragraphs to one paragraph to three sentences to some sort of gibberish that only slightly resembles English.
5. The 36 minutes a day you and your brother get along. It's the best 36 minutes of my day and the older you get, the more I hope we push the one hour mark.
6. Your phone going off every eight seconds. I love that. Here's hoping iOS 8 is out by the time you get back so we can opt out of those group chats.
7. You're help with Jojo. Honestly, I was worried that you wouldn't step up to the responsibility, but you have in such a big way and are so good with the hound. Hopefully by the time you get back, he will be housebroken, but if he isn't, he will pee all over the floor when you walk in for the first time. Careful you don't slip in it.
8. That funny new voice you're doing that is part Golem and part Yoda. Sometimes annoying, sometimes blood-curdling, it's another wonderful example of your creativity and your sense of humor.
9. The nightly argument that ensues whenever it's bedtime, regardless of what time it actually is.
10. Looking into your room in the morning after you're gone and seeing your closet light on and your bed looking like it was made while you were blindfolded. This comes immediately after walking by the bathroom, where it appears a hippo may have gotten lose.
11. 1:00 in the morning during a bad thunderstorm. I don't get too many cuddle moments anymore. I'll take them when I can.
12. Making fun of the farmersonly.com commercials with you. It's for good old country folks too, you know?
13. Not seeing you on our birthday. No easy way around this one even if I know it will be like this for, well, for a while.
14. The chaos of having some number of preteen girls running around the house screaming and snapping selfies. #noiselevel
15. You. Plain old you.
As I told you last year, you have earned these four weeks. It's your time to be you and to be away from Mom and Dad. We hope its everything you want it to be and we hope that your independence grows with equal measures of maturity. It's an opportunity for you to learn more about who you are inside.
At the same time, its a chance for me to take a deep breath and look at the things I can be doing better as a Dad. I promise to do that -- to take a deep breath and remember that while you seem 20, you are only 11 (almost), that I have to give you your space when you are home, not just when you go to camp, and that 90% of the time we couldn't ask for a better daughter and in the grand scheme of things, that 10% isn't all that bad.
No Phillip Phillips this year. I want you to be able to listen to that song again at some point. So I'll just say I'll miss you and get back. Get back to where you once belonged. Go home.
Love you Babyio.