Girl Scout Camp! My oldest daughter has been planning on it for weeks. We bought her a new backpack to carry all of her stuff, she packed her lunch fully 18 hours before we were to leave for camp, she checked and rechecked her supplies and checked them off against her list. She lugged the deadweight of the pack around for days, claiming she needed to "get used to it". I am so sure she will end the week with a stiff neck and a sweaty backpack, but she can't contain herself.
She and her girlfriend signed up for this day camp three months ago and they are filled with questions about what they might do - make crafts, sing songs, throw water balloons? Not even the fact that it is a half hour from home and she is required to bring bug repellent feels daunting. She just wants to go.
Armed with a piss-poor map and a general idea of where I was going, we headed off this morning with a cushion of 45 minutes just in case...Fifteen minutes into the journey, I was feeling smug - we were over halfway there. I would surely get us there in time to scope out the camp, meet her counselors, hook up with her girlfriend and find the bathrooms before everyone else arrived. Yay, me! I planned ahead. Twenty minutes later (and who knows how many u-turns) the rumblings began in the back seat. The beauty of driving with an older child is that they are more able to entertain themselves. The part that sucks is that they can tell when you're lost. I had to resort to phoning my realtor friend twice for help, once because a road I was supposed to take was closed. SHIT! Now I was going to be late. There is almost nothing I hate more than being late, especially on the first day.
I sensed only pure excitement in my daughter about this camp. My feelings consisted of 90% anxiety and 10% excitement. I hoped I wasn't telegraphing that to her, but I was afraid as we drove around in circles in farm country that she was noticing my nervousness. This camp was all day, five days in a row, far away from my house with only one person she knew - someone younger than her. How was she going to cope? I know I don't give her enough credit for being resilient and strong. I think that's because I see too much of myself in her. I don't DO change. I am excruciatingly nervous in new situations and would never have done something like this when I was little unless my mother was a counselor or all of my friends would be there. She is much more courageous than I, so why do I keep worrying that she will be like me?
We finally arrived, 30 minutes late. We spotted her friend's mother in the parking lot, on her way out, and she pointed us to the general area where the girls were situated. We dashed over (me carrying the inordinately heavy backpack - I suspect she added some extra items from home) to the picnic tables and spied her name on the clipboard for one of the groups. I signed her in and they gave her a pink t-shirt to change into. Ahhh, I could finally start to relax.
Two minutes later, I began to realize that her girlfriend was not seated around the picnic table. Hmmm, maybe she went to the bathroom? Some more sleuthing revealed that she was not actually in my daughter's group. What the FUCK? Now I was really freaked out. In my pre-therapy life, I would have belligerently marched up to the leader and firmly expressed my wish that they make this right. I planned for this. I didn't want her to be alone in the camp, so I arranged, exactly as I had been instructed, for her friend to be in her same group. Now, I realize, that might give my daughter the impression that I thought she couldn't handle being alone at camp and that there was a reason I was nervous.
I took some deep breaths, asked some of the other girls around the table what their names were, and acted excited that she was going to meet some new friends. My daughter, bless her heart, lost only about 15% of her smile when she discovered her friend wouldn't be spending the week with her, and plowed through. I have no idea what she is feeling, and I am fairly certain she'll persevere without tears until the end of the day. I dread the thought that she might break down and cry with me tonight because I know exactly how she feels. I cried as soon as I got on the road again, feeling that I had let her down and trying to release the fluttering creatures in my chest that scared me so. I hope she bonds with these girls. I hope she has a fantastic day and spots her girlfriend across the park once or twice. I still want to try to change things so that tomorrow they are in the same group, but I don't know if that's because I really wanted them to get to hang out together, or if it's because I'm frightened to be alone in a group of people I don't know. I probably won't be able to figure that one out.
I do know that tonight when I get home, I'm going to get out the map and find the most efficient way to get there tomorrow morning. I will call her girlfriend's mother and lament that the girls aren't together. I will probably feel guilty for a while and nervous when I drop her off again. Her bravery shocks me and fills me with pride. She is a marvel and I love her. I hope her stomach is not secretly twisted in nervousness like mine. I hope she is simply excited to be there and can't wait to go back tomorrow. Maybe I can learn from her how to do that someday.