I’ve been whining a lot this summer about still being in pain after two neurosurgeries within five months and being exhausted all the time trying to stay on top of working full-time, physical therapy, managing the kid’s summer schedules, etc. However, I do remember a couple of weeks during the summer of 2006 that were even more physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting.
Aaron, then 14 (shaggy blonde in the top row in the photo), was at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico for 2 weeks. They’d been training for six months to hike in for a week, then out for a week, carrying all supplies on their backs (fifty-pound packs) and hiking up to twelve miles a day at high altitudes. They even climbed Mount Baldy (peak elevation 12,500 feet). The last parent meeting before departure covered “minimizing the likelihood of bear and mountain lion attacks” and “treatment for snakebites”. . . I was thinking the best way to minimize the likelihood of ALL that was to keep my little sweetheart home. I can’t remember the last time I heard about a bear or mountain lion attack in Louisville, Kentucky and the only rattlesnakes we have here are served in a shot glass. He was determined to go and have the “ultimate Scouting experience” though, so I decided my best bet was to keep VERY BUSY while he was gone.
I signed Jack (then 7) up for a week of Cub Scout Day Camp, scheduled a week of vacation from work, and signed on as a Den Leader for the week. One of the problems with having your kids seven years apart is you forget things in between. You forget what it’s like to not sleep more than 90 minutes at a stretch the entire first year, you forget how at about age 2 1/2 you want MORE THAN ANYTHING IN THE WORLD for them to agree to use the freakin‘ potty, and you forget what utter, unadulterated HELL Cub Scout Day Camp is. For those of you who don’t have boys, or have boys too young to have experienced this yet, let me clue you in. These camps are all run and fully staffed by volunteers, so every adult there is either a saint, power-mad, or just stupid (guess where I fit in). It’s beastly hot and humid here in the summer, so all the demons – I mean children – are encouraged to stay hydrated. They go through GALLONS of “bug juice”, which is Koolaid with extra sugar. This works especially well with the ADHD kids who are off their meds for the summer – thanks, Mom!
All day long the Den Leaders hustle their charges from one activity station to another, and you have to carry a handmade (group craft project) Den flag with you everywhere and chant your original Den cheer loudly at every opportunity so you can win the “Spirit Pole”, without which all the campers in your Den will surely need therapy. The activity stations include Crafts (usually situated near First Aid because of the hammers used to stamp designs on little leather things), Nature (learn to identify the poison ivy that your whole Den sat in at lunch time today for a picnic), Archery, and BB Guns. Yes, I said Archery and BB Guns. Yes, I realize this is Kentucky, but REALLY? I’m responsible for keeping ten sugar-buzzed kids alive and you want to give them all weapons? No surprise, the BB Guns and Archery stations were ALWAYS staffed by folks in the “saint” category. These men (often police officers) took their well-deserved vacation time to spend all day in the scorching heat teaching 150 cretins how to safely shoot bows and arrows and BB guns. Wonderful people.
Then there are the people who are just there to show everyone else what they are doing wrong. You can spot them pretty easily – they are in full Scout uniform (including knee socks and smokey bear hat) and want to make sure you are tying the little plastic beads onto the little plastic lanyard properly, and they WILL correct anyone who sings the wrong words to the icky “camp songs” (which are usually about worms for some unknown reason). These are the people who made me want to pack a fifth of tequila in my backpack to mix with my bug juice. So, if you are sending your offspring to camp this summer without you be brave, be sweet to all volunteers, and medicate your kids if necessary. If you are volunteering God bless you and schedule a spa day or a girls’ night out for yourself immediately to follow.
Just so you know, Aaron came back safely and still says Philmont was “one of the most awesome experiences of his life”, Jack had a good time at Day Camp, and all his fellow campers lived through the week, although one did miss the last day, perhaps due to my helpful suggestion that his mom “put a muzzle on” her little serial-killer-in-training.