My biggest fear about Mazzy coming home from sleepaway camp, was that all those weeks without technology would make her more addicted than ever. But I think the opposite has happened. It seems like she realized how much more fun life is when you aren’t zoning out on your iPad. I asked her if she missed her iPad while she away and she said, “No, I was having too much fun to miss it.” When I told her, I wanted to be better about restricting her screen time, she did not argue. She seemed to inherently understand the benefit.

I thought jumping on the computer would be the first thing she did when she got home, but it wasn’t. She wanted to snuggle with me and play with Harlow. After about a half hour of snuggle time and chatting, Mazzy and Harlow ran up to their room, took out all their toys and asked me if they could be alone to play. I went downstairs and did some work, while listening to their giggles drifting down the stairs.

The best sound ever.

When Mazzy finally logged on later that night, it was to tell her friends that she was home and set up communication with her new camp friends. I told her she had 20 minutes to do it and when her time was up, she put it away without a fuss. There were no requests to play Minecraft or watch YouTube. I was pretty shocked, to be honest.

Then the following day, we had guests over and I realized that Mazzy had disappeared in the bathroom for awhile. I knocked on the door to see if she was alright and she reacted a little suspiciously. I thought, here we go, she’s hiding in the bathroom with her iPad. But when she opened the door, I saw that she had been sitting on the bathroom counter playing with her LEGO people. She’d brought a whole village in there. I’m not sure if she was being secretive because she wanted to play alone or because she thought she was doing something babyish, but the sight of my big kid sneaking off to play with her LEGO & Friends was the happiest sight ever.

She also asked to make her own breakfast the next morning and volunteered to make breakfast for Harlow too. She seemed eager to show off her newfound independence and all the skills that came with that. I wondered if this was the after-camp honeymoon period. Would it fade fast or be the start of a whole new Mazzy?

Well, it’s now been a few weeks since she came home from camp (three exactly) and New Mazzy is still going strong. My daughter has been an absolute dream, and you’ll just have to take my word for it when I say— this was not how she was behaving for the better half of last year. She had a major attitude that we could not shake (I could hand her candy and she would still scowl), which is a big part of the reason solo life with Harlow was so enjoyable in July.

Since Mazzy has returned, she is doing more stuff for herself, voluntarily helping me out in all different ways, engaging with me in more advanced and meaningful conversations, getting along with her little sister and just being generally wonderful. As much as she has grown up, it’s been really cute to see that she is still attached to a lot of her old toys. Just this past weekend, she took her American Girl Doll on a family trip to Rhode Island.

She even asked me to braid both of their hair so they matched. She hasn’t let me braid her hair since kindergarten!

And Boo is still something she sleeps with every night. When it comes to watching television, instead of separate shows on separate devices, we have been watching more TV as a family (old seasons of Survivor, if you are paying attention on Instagram), and getting invested all together is an ABSOLUTE JOY. We have also been baking a lot (Mazzy wants her own baking show, just like Harlow) and she’s even been voluntarily posing for my pictures.

I still don’t have her old smile back WITH TEETH, but I think we are getting close.

Last year, I went to this school seminar where a teacher broke down kids’ personalities by age. She said that 9 year-olds can be confrontational and push boundaries, while 10 year-olds are at this magical age of love and good behavior. Mazzy was in the midst of developing a major attitude and I remember thinking— well, this is just a huge generalization; I can’t imagine Mazzy turning it around that fast.

But now, “the magical age” (which is officially scheduled to arrive on December 9th) doesn’t seem nearly as far fetched as it did just a couple months ago. I think Mazzy going away to camp has a lot to do with that. It probably would have been harder for her to just turn off all the scowling and act differently, if she was still seeing us every day. Maybe there would have been a gradual change to “good behavior” that I would have noticed over time, but going away to camp for four weeks gave us a HARD RESET that was immediately noticeable for our entire family. Mazzy genuinely enjoyed herself while she was away, which meant she came home in a good mood. I feared all that time on her own would make her resent parental supervision again, but I think it actually made her appreciate and understand all the things we do for her.

She told me she missed camp, but it was also really good to be home.

So now, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but— I can see it.

The magic.

It’s here.