“I went to Girl Scout Camp last weekend”
In the last few weeks I have started many conversations with that phrase–changing the timing as needed. Mostly because it is shocking and surprising for everyone’s imaginations. Those who know me and my personality imagine me awkwardly standing in a corner of a massive building alone. Or being climbed like a tree by hundreds of 6 year olds while I figured out how to escape. Or running from a bubble blowing throng and jumping in a lake to just get away from the crowd of screeching girl scouts. Truth be told I was partially expecting that as well. I went because it was father – daughter weekend, but uncles were allowed.
My niece turned seven the weekend the camp took place and I had been hiking and camping a good bit this summer so nothing seemed more fun when my sister suggested I go to camp with the little princess. It would give me some great time to connect with her, to give her my full attention without her little sis competing for attention and both being too cute to handle. It would also give me something to do besides sitting on couches or deciding what to eat while being home. But then a couple weeks before I went I realized what it might entail and the problems.
See, here’s the thing. I don’t care for most kids. They annoy me, are too loud, smell and say offensive things without being corrected. I don’t get them. So the better plan would be to just hang out with the fathers and uncles and big brothers and godfathers while letting the princess play and learn with friends her own age. But then I realized it would southern men…who do manly things like shoot animals for fun, wrench cars all weekend, build rooms/caves in their house to escape their wife and kids, and follow a bunch of college students so intently they know GPA, passing rate, tackles and rushing yards. Men who were unlike those I enjoy most of my conversations with here in the northwest. Men who fit the over generalizations I cover them with and are proud of it so much they brag about it on their trucks they drive to their office. These are men who drive big trucks. How the heck would I relate? I just changed a fuse on my Ford Taurus so my alarm won’t randomly go off and wake up my housemates anymore, so I don’t have to ride public transit everywhere, just to work cause it is cheaper than parking downtown, know what I’m sayin’!
It was with this apprehension that I drove the newly 7 year old princess to far north Georgia, realizing along the way that after never once babysitting her for any length of time I was now in charge of her for over 40 hours…in a tent…on her first camping trip…outside of cell phone range. I checked in to the camp and after chatting the WHOLE drive up— including constantly consistently asking when are we gonna get there? Will we get there before the sun goes down?—the princess went mute. She was overwhelmed. There were kids everywhere. There were no camp spots, none of her friends, and no real bathrooms! Only port-a- potties as far as we could see. It was indeed dark as we set up the bright pink tent and readied for a night of sleep. She luckily was a great flash light holder and more than willing to tell me how to put up a tent neither of us had unraveled before. It was up and the sleeping bags and pads were layed out in a matter of minutes. Now for sleep, I thought. Unfortunately the other campers didn’t realize we were ready for sleep so got high on s’mores and sugar and camping and were screaming to each other until at least midnight.
The screaming and the excitement did not help the little princess sleep at all. In fact she kept opening the tent flap to see what was happening. Apparently the screen wasn’t clear enough so it had to be opened. She then had to flip her sleeping position to be looking out the door at the other girls and the stars. Granted they were much brighter here than in her suburban home. As I read I noticed her sneaking out, slowly. Who could blame her? So we went out in our pajamas and looked at the stars and she ran and danced as the other sugar-high kids yelled around her. THen she tried to play some catch game which is very unfair because of Uncle J’s night blindness. Eventually she did find the energy to fall asleep.
The morning came early for Uncle J- but the princess was up and ready to go fishing…another first for her, she claims. But she wanted pancakes, mostly because she didnt think they could be made outside in a foggy meadow. It was in fact nearly impossible as we didn’t have lighter –Uncle J gets to know the camping neighbors—and the little stove doesn’t actually work well enough to make more than a sloppy pancake—Uncle J takes the princess to town for dinner. Luckily her mom packed Gogurts and chocolate milk!
The activities which I assumed would be assigned and led by someone who would make me talk to others were actually completely free form and allowed us to just show up when desired. This meant that not only was I allowed to be anonymous but the princess didn’t have much chance to make friends as everyone was on different stages of their leather, candle, t-shirt, or keychain crafts. It was nothing like I was worried about. And there was only one instance where I had to act like I knew how the Dawgs was doin’. Plus, by the end of the day all the girls around us were exhausted by these crafts and other activities so let us hit the sack early because it was another early fishing wakeup call for Uncle J.
As I look back on my weekend at Girl Scout camp it makes me smile. I had an amazing chance to connect with my niece, to show her the joys of tent camping, early morning fishing, and how to (or not to) pick a port-a-potty after 3 days and hundreds of campers. Instead of being chased into the lake by throngs of pink flocked 6 year olds, I assisted a teenager who busted her knee open jumping into the lake. Instead of talking football with the dads I discussed how not to get Uncle J’s line tangled. And instead of driving the princess home early we had “the best chinese food ever” in small town Georgia. Although it was not like I expected, it was so much better!
Hopefully next year her daddy will figure out how to go!
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