Saturday, April 26, 2008

Chaperoning 101

I spent the last 36 hours acting as a chaperone for a portion of my daughter's 5th-grade camp trip. It was actually quite fun, though rather exhausting. (Sleeping in a small cabin with 7 girls and 1 other mom in connected, CREAKY bunks while trying not to cough & sneeze all night is just not restful.) But other than the poor night's sleep, and a handful of kids out of the entire group that were just a little harder to appreciate, I really enjoyed my time there. Plus, I learned some important stuff.

For example, I learned marsh water may look really dirty and icky....

...but it's actually full of sphagnum moss and microorganisms that filter it quite efficiently, resulting in sparkling clear water you can drink. The process it goes through takes some time, but the results are impressive.

And I learned that Tootsie is not afraid of snakes, and can swing on a rope without falling, and has nimble fingers for macrame, and can paddle a canoe, and catch a fish, and is a well-mannered, smart, polite, independent kid that is easy to be around. Well, some of that I already knew, but it's always good to have my opinions supported. (and there has been a slight air of doubt surrounding one or two of those lately...)

I learned that my daughter has some really neat friends. Friends that I hope will carry over into next year when they enter the giant, overwhelming territory of Middle School together.

I learned there is an enormous range of shapes and sizes and maturity levels in her age group...and I realized that she is growing up. Fast.

It all got me thinking. We have marshy territory (so to speak) looming in our immediate future, and even though I know it can be a magical filtering time, I'm still having a hard time seeing past the potential ickiness of those teenage years to come. Murky waters of unknown depths with unfamiliar life-forms operating in an entirely different microcosm. Middle School! High School!!

I know that millions of people before us have gone down the very same path... but I'm just a bit anxious about where it might lead. What is up ahead?

I find myself wishing for a map. One of those really helpful camp maps that's labelled with distances, and difficulty levels, and time estimates, and dead ends, and short-cuts! One that has a list of what to pack, and expected weather conditions, and what to do in case of an emergency. After all, I've been through those parts before, but I'm not entirely convinced I know my way around well enough to safely lead someone else.

But, of course, there is no map like that. So I'll settle for the hope that we will be able to explore that marsh together, too, and that she will continue to let me chaperone -- quietly, watchfully, steadily in the background, ready to step in as needed.

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