By far the worst part about being a parent is, you cannot control the entire universe, or even the particular part of the universe surrounding your child at any and all given times. I look at my children (particularly when they’re sleeping, maybe a little sweaty, but quiet — really at their finest) and think, “I wish only good things would happen to you. You deserve for only good things to happen to you. You’re a kid; you don’t know anything, you didn’t ask to be here. You’re just trying to figure it all out, and I resent that the world will, inevitably, show you bad things.”
That sounds like a lot to think, but really, it comes all at once, as a feeling. It’s interesting how it takes all those words to communicate a feeling that comes about so instantly and completely, while watching someone snore and sweat.
Alas, terrible stuff happens to everyone, coming at us in various forms and intensities. And much of this stuff, a not-insignificant amount, I suspect, happens in the wilderness.
So, when it’s time to send your Defiance Elementary School student to fifth-grade camp — a weeklong affair at Camp Storer in Jackson, Mich. — you spend the week sitting with a particular sort of discomfort: what’s happening? What’s going on? Are people showering? Sleeping? Eating bugs? Being jerks? Succumbing to viruses? Succumbing to fears? Hungry? Conquering fears? Thirsty? Developing new fears?
I guess it’s not for me to know. I suppose this is the real start to a chapter wherein, I don’t get to control everything. It’s all right, I’m not too worried. I still get to control most things.
Thankfully, the newly established silence inside my home offered ample opportunity for me to consider these issues in total peace. My son was quiet, since hollering at yourself loses its appeal pretty quickly, for most. Once, it was so quiet, I thought something was wrong with one or both of my ears. As a joke, that wouldn’t be very funny; the humor, to me, is only in that it truly did happen.
All week, folks asked where she was, and when I told them camp, I usually got to hear a story of their own glory days at good old Camp So-and-So. They remember Camp So-and-So. Camp So-and-So was where they did something-or-another for the first time. I realized then it was highly likely that something would happen during the week that she’d remember for the rest of her days. I wondered what the stand-out moment would be.
She had expressed to me weeks ago that, in light of the fact that there was no swimming on the itinerary, she planned to tip her canoe — under the guise of an accident — in order to get a little swim time in. Obviously, I told her she must not do this. Try horseback riding. Learn to build a small, well-managed fire. Weave something. Just don’t involve emergency medical services in your stand-out moment. That’s all I was asking.
All week long, I told myself, “They have my number. If and when things go wrong enough, they’ll call.”
I’m happy to report, they never did. The busses arrived back in town Friday afternoon, Camp Storer got a glowing report, and no canoes were tipped (reportedly due to fear that said tipping would sever a friendship with her canoe-mate, a wise call).
I did, however, hear this: “I ate a worm for the first time!” Now, while that is the perfect level of riskiness and adventure for a fifth-grade camper to exhibit, I do wonder...are there going to be other times?