Monday, August 10, 2009

Your luxury accommodations await...

Spiders and ants included. A week-long stint in the foothills of North Carolina can be yours for free if you'll just take responsibility for 17 kids.

I highly recommend it. You will learn things about yourself, and you will learn things about those kids. And because there are 630+ other kids attending, you will learn a bit about crowds and personal space as well.

You will learn that, in general, rural folk and city folk approach kid control differently. If you are city folk, you may feel a bit ineffectual, like a bit of a weak egghead if you share your campsite with another group that hails from the country, even if that country is only about 25 miles from the heart of your city.

With a rural inflection, a simple but quietly spoken "Boy. What are you doin'?" stops all foolishness, and a "Put that out. Don't do it again." keeps the foolishness from happening again. In the event that it doesn't squash the foolishness, a good long stare from the adult usually does.

In contrast, the city egghead version goes something like this (paraphrased with the hidden meaning of what is actually said added by me):

Adult: "(Insert kid's name here), why are you doing that? Don't do that! It's dangerous!"

Kid: "Well, I'm not doing exactly that. I'm doing a slight variation of that, that's just different enough that you telling me to stop does not exactly apply. So I can continue to do it."

Adult: "Well, I don't agree that what you are doing is significantly different from what I have told you to stop doing, but just the same, the fact that I have told to stop doing something should be enough to make you stop doing whatever it is you are doing."

Kid: (Either evasive silence, or repeated contention that they weren't doing exactly what they were told to stop doing)

And... Scene.

Whenever I attend camping related events that throw together different parenting styles, I inevitably end up feeling a bit ineffective. As much as I want my kids and any kids for which I am responsible to mind what I say, I really don't want them to do so because they are afraid of me.

One of our kids went up to one of those well-minded leaders, the ones that can control their kids with a look and few words. Our kid said, "Wanna see a card trick?" as he held up a deck of cards. The very leader, who all week had been there on the periphery of my vision, as I parented and led my group; Who I felt watching, whether he was or not; Who I thought was probably judging my control over my group, and finding it lacking. He says, "You mean, Poof! You're a pile of sh*t?"

That guy probably learned nothing that week, but he was part of my lesson learned. What else did I learn? Of what else was I reminded?

Well, the kid I worried about was better than expected, to a point. So I learned that even people I have given up on will surprise me. I learned that if an 11-year old can handle everything he brought with him getting absolutely soaked in a rainstorm with an unflappability you don't see in a lot of adults then I can handle things a lot more calmly myself. I was reminded that not letting yourself get overwhelmed has a lot to do with how much you choose to let things overwhelm you. And as much as I enjoyed my week in the woods, I was reminded that I really just love being home.

1 comment:

Shiningwoman, freelance artist said...

Glad to see you survived your adventure. Welcome back. Loved your insights. And as the Nox might say (from stargate SG-1) "Sometimes the very young do not do what they are told."