Sleeping with the Enemy
March 3, 2014
It was my idea and everyone agreed it was a good idea. To take 20 boys under the age of ten, and their families, camping in the nearby forest preserve. Sounds like a great time.
But camping with Cub Scouts is scarier than it sounds.
Tent camping means spending the night in a flimsy nylon tent in the kind of material that any self-respecting raccoon and his brood of brothers could easily poke a hole through and attack with those bear-claws that can slice a pork tenderloin. Tent camping means spending the night unsecured, unlocked and unprotected from the weather, creepy crawlies and Stranger Danger. Checking for “bed bugs” meant something different than when I check into a motel.
Tent Camping is sleeping with the enemy to a suburban housewife.
But, I am a woman of my word so therefore this heroine made the necessary arrangements to secure a campsite. And tents. And firewood. And cast iron dutch ovens. And this is the simple life?
Somewhere between promising the perfect campout to 20 adolescent boys and securing the necessary outdoor gear, I realized that the “we” who promised this campout became “me”. And mild concern started to creep in with the realization that there were no experienced campers within our group. Nobody else knew anymore about camping than me. And, I knew nothing (I thought at the time.)
Fear Factor #1: I Am Not Qualified
There was planning, and projects to keep the kids busy in the great outdoors, a 3-mile hike with some unplanned, uncharted, off-course excursions. And s’mores. And then some more s’mores. Everyone was having a grand time. Except me. Because I knew what literally lay ahead - all of these kids and their families crawling into polyester tents that I’m sure will ignite from a flying spark from the bonfire not quite burned out. Fire bucket? And surely the bearcoons will sniff out the Twinkies that Jack’s Mom brought into their tent for breakfast. And it’s my signature on the tour permit, so therefore in the eyes of the Ranger and the Fire Marshall I am the responsible party. But this is no party.
Fear Factor #2: I Am the Responsible Party and this is no party
Finally I too crawled into my shaky shelter, getting comfortable in my sleeping bag and holding onto my flashlight in a deathgrip. Soon the voices settled down, flashlights no longer lit and all I could hear is the wind whipping across the nylon tent. But I can only visualize The Blair Witch Project movie, a mockery of a documentary in which three college students lose their lives while camping.
Fear Factor #3: It Could Happen to Me
Camping with the Cub Scous was ten years ago. This summer, I traveled to the Florida Keys with 15 Boy Scouts and spent five days on a small island. I rowed ten miles across the open Atlantic Ocean in the rain to an island with no power, indoor plumbing or electronics. I slept under the stars and brushed my teeth while the local keydeer looked on. There was plenty of fear leading up to this high adventure. I would be required to spent most of the week in my swim suit with 15 young men - nothing to take lightly as a 45 year woman.
I needed to pass the swim test upon arrival to base camp. And if I didn’t pass the swim test, I would not participate in the rest of the high adventure (and my $2000 participation fee was already paid in full. And I needed to pull my weight within my crew - I was neither a Mom nor a woman this week. Just another crewmate required to catch, clean, cook and eat the fish for dinner.
I overcame my Fear Factors.
I pushed myself and trained to be physically ready and qualified to survive the week. I completed the necessary Wilderness First Aid and CPR training to fulfill my responsibilities as an adult leader. I knew what could happen to me and prepared for the risks. The last night before departing for civilization, our crew reminisced over the highlights of the week. I confessed that I was thrilled that I survived.
Our crew leader replied, “You not only survived, but thrived.” It took ten years, stubborn determination and a wanderlust of the unknown. But I overcame my fear of sleeping with the enemy. Sleeping outdoors was never the enemy. Fear was the enemy; now neatly folded, packed away and locked into storage.