When I first received the email about going on a camping trip with Mazzy’s Girl Scout troop, I assumed we would be sleeping in tents. I hate camping but signed us up anyway. The potential for a meaningful mother daughter moment trumps almost anything, even roughing it in the woods.
FYI, I am not trying to be a diva with my dislike of camping. This is based on my real life experience of camping for three weeks straight on a teen tour when I was fifteen. I had no problem with the bathrooms or putting up the tent or dealing with the bugs, etc. I had problems with sleeping. Which were compounded by the fact that I had to stay in my tiny cot praying my flashlight wouldn’t die or even worse, that I would have to go to the bathroom which required me to wake a counselor.
Fortunately, “camping” really meant “Girl Scout Camp” which turned out to be a lot more similar to sleep away camp, a time in my life that was considerably more fun. There were cabins with bunk beds and bathrooms (although walking through them barefoot was definitely not advised) where all the moms and kids would sleep in one big room.
There was a dining hall serving burgers and bug juice and a pool for swimming, which (true to my sleep away camp experience) was our first planned activity of the day. (Anybody else remember being forced to jump in the lake at 7am for swim instruction?)
If I have one criticism of my Girl Scout Camp experience, it’s that all our activities were scheduled backwards. Swimming would have been enjoyable in the afternoon, but the kids had to get in their suits the second we arrived and get tested to see if they could swim without an adult.
Nothing sets the tone for the day like telling a bunch of six-year-olds freezing in their bathing suits that they have to pass a swim test.
The girls lined up by the pool gate, along with the other group scheduled to swim at the same time (a bunch of girls who looked like they were about 15) as the lifeguard launched into the qualifications for the swim test (swim two laps, using a real stroke, with your head above water, and then tread water for 30 seconds.) If you failed, you could not swim in the deep end, swim without a parent or use the diving board.
I totally understand the reason for the test, but I could also feel each mom (myself included) playing out in their heads the different scenarios that might cause their child to meltdown. Most of our girls have only recently learned to swim and their strokes are not pretty. Plus, seeing them lined up next to the 15-year-olds was pretty intimidating.
The younger girls went first and by the looks in their eyes, they knew exactly how much was at stake. Mazzy swam like her life depended on it. She passed, thank god. But then she decided she had no desire to go in the deep end and asked me to come in the shallow end with her instead.
Sure, Mazzy, no problem. Let me just step into— HOLY CRAP! THE WATER IS FREEZING!!!!!
Luckily, Mazzy got a huge case of “the shivers” before I even got my upper calves submerged and we spent the rest of the hour huddled together in a beach towel. If only the counselors at my sleep away camp had let this be an option…
Next we made Smores. Yep. 9am swimming, 10am smores. There’s no “but this will ruin lunch!” at Girl Scout Camp!
FYI, Mazzy scorched hers to perfection.
Most of the morning, Mazzy was sad because her best friend didn’t make the trip and almost all the girls in attendance were from another class a grade up. At lunch, Mazzy insisted I sit next to her so I ended up being the only grown-up at the table. The other moms looked like they were having a lot more fun talking amongst each other but I imagine one day soon, Mazzy will insist I sit nowhere near her, so I’ll take these moments where I can get them.
After lunch, we did a bunch of nature activities like going on a scavenger hunt in the butterfly farm. The leader of the activity instructed the girls to break up into threes and again, I did quick calculations in my head to play out all the ways that Mazzy would be left out and how I would handle it.
Two different pairs of girls asked Mazzy to be on their team and just as I was about to be relieved, Mazzy said no to both of them, insisting on staying with me instead. I was confused, because I thought Mazzy wanted to feel more included, but then I realized she wanted to be the one holding the scavenger hunt list and tagging along on someone else’s team didn’t give her that opportunity. I guess I was reading more into the social dynamics than what was actually happening.
At the frog pond, all the girls were instructed to put their nets in the pond to see what creatures they could scoop up.
One by one, the girls would find something and Mazzy would come up short. “I’m not finding anything!” she’d say, her voice getting more urgent and close to tears with each passing moment. Finally, she scooped up a few tadpoles and I could breathe a huge sigh of relief. Meltdown averted.
Then another girl started crying because she didn’t find anything and I realized we are all in the same boat— just trying to give our daughters the best experience possible, but also recognizing that we can’t shield our kids or each other from the inevitable meltdowns, accidents or much needed breaks. As the day progressed, almost every kid had their moment and as a result, I think the camaraderie of the moms increased.
The last activity before dinner was the ropes course, where all the girls had to work as a team to get through each station.
I loved seeing how much more comfortable Mazzy seemed than she did that morning. No longer on her own but now a part of the group.
Or maybe that was me reflecting my own feelings amongst the moms and Mazzy had been fine all along.
Mazzy’s freakout came during a tie-dye situation where she mistakenly dyed her hands bright pink and then couldn’t get it to come off with soap and water. You’d think this would be fine, but apparently “It’s just like Pinkalicious!” works better on a five-year-old than a six-year-old.
Thankfully, a lot of the other kids were dyed different colors too, so Mazzy got over it quickly.
At dinner, my favorite moment was right before we ate. The main troop leader said, “Let’s say Grace” and one of our girls looked around and said, “Who’s Grace?”Dinner was followed by a dance party which was pretty awesome.
Mazzy and her friends danced along with the rest of the camp to a DJ. As the sun went down, she learned the Electric Slide and the Macarena, probably thinking these were all brand new moves.
When it was pitch dark out, we had to find our way back to the cabin, which was a pretty far walk along unlit roads in the woods.
“It looks like a scary movie,” the girls said as they looked up to the canopy of rustling trees and the endless blackness in front of us.
“You know some people think New York City is scary,” I told Mazzy.
She looked up at me, so I could see the whites of her wide eyes in the darkness.
“Naaaah. That’s silly, Mom.”
Then we were up to the part of the trip that I was dreading the most. It was time to go to sleep. On our last overnight Girl Scouts trip to the Museum of Natural History, I didn’t sleep a wink all night and was prepared to do the same here. I had my phone fully charged and a loaded Kindle to keep me company.
As the girls turned on flashlights and told their versions of scary stories, the moms tried to corral everyone to brush their teeth, wash their feet and get into bed. Mazzy got restless almost immediately and I told her she could lie down in the same cot with me.
The next morning, on our walk to the dining hall for breakfast, I was told there were kids up until all hours and moms texting one another at 3am that they couldn’t wait until morning.
Thankfully, I missed all of that because for once, Mazzy and I were the ones fast asleep.