So I took my oldest child to Girls Camp yesterday for Valiants Day. She was not that keen on going because she didn’t think she would like it. I was not that keen on taking her because I knew that I wouldn’t like it (but I did suspect that she might, at least a little bit, once she got into it).
I never went to Girls Camp when I was a young woman. I just wasn’t interested. I wasn’t interested in a lot of things in those days, but now I can honestly say that unlike the YW Recognition Award, which I sometimes wish I had earned, even if I’d never deigned to wear it, Girls Camp is something I have no regrets about not doing–not that there’s anything wrong with it. I see why a lot of people enjoy it, but it’s just not my scene.
Unfortunately, the whole reason I was at Girls Camp yesterday–ALL DAY, FOR 12+ HOURS, NOT INCLUDING TRAVEL TIME–was that our stake asks the mothers of girls with “special needs” to accompany their daughters to camp. My daughter has Asperger’s System, and at this point in her development, she doesn’t really need a full-time chaperone. Her biggest problem now is that she’s unpredictable and she tends not to edit her thoughts before speaking her mind, which makes her annoying, but not dangerous or out of control. But whatever. I was there in case she had any problems, which she mostly didn’t (as I expected), so I tried to keep myself fairly removed from her while still being accessible. Since I was the only adult as far as my eye could see for large portions of the day–the YW were running most of the action–this was a little awkward. I felt like a third wheel. Or a fifth wheel. Or a nineteenth wheel. Unnecessary and this close to being in the way.
I asked some adult leaders at the beginning what they wanted me to do while I was there, since I had no idea what was supposed to be happening, and they told me to just feel free to roam and help out where necessary–which is simply not explicit enough for me to work with, especially when everyone seems to be doing just fine without my help (including my daughter).
My Valiant daughter did have a couple problems over the course of the (12+ HOUR) day: 1) the dining hall was way too loud–all that singing/shouting/screaming for joy + banging cups and plates, etc.–she didn’t enjoy that at all, and 2) they had to put on skits and her group’s choice of skit was not to her liking. In both of these situations, where I theoretically could/should have been helpful, I was really not all that helpful.
I offered to take her out of the dining hall and eat with her outside, but she declined (I think she didn’t believe she’d really get fed, and since I was obviously as clueless about Girls Camp as she was, I don’t think she believed anything I told her to the contrary). She suffered through lunch, but at dinner time, while I was off powdering my nose, one of the adult leaders took her to get some ear plugs. (That was helpful.)
As far as the skit issue went, I did my usual mother thing, which was to talk her through her concerns and try to persuade her to see it a different way, or else to suck it up, try something new, or otherwise just let it go. These are all skills she needs to work on, but my powers of persuasion were not cutting it yesterday, and at that stage of the game I was probably not patient and long-suffering enough to try a novel approach. Not that I ever lost my patience or my temper with her at any point yesterday (not to boast because it’s I assure you it’s quite unusual for me not to lose my patience or temper with her), but I was SERIOUSLY ALL DONE WITH GIRLS’ CAMP, and I still had a few hours left to go, and I was basically on auto-pilot by that time. What ended up happening was that between the other girls and another adult leader, she was persuaded into doing the skit, and she ended up having a great time.
In other words, I was just window dressing yesterday. The up side was that I got to see my daughter have fun, and I got to see just how unnecessary I was. The down side was that I was at Girls Camp for 12+ HOURS, and on the 1+ HOUR drive home, I was seriously hoping that my daughter would go inactive between now and next time, when the stake will ask me to go with her to Girls Camp FOR THE WHOLE WEEK, FOR THE NEXT SEVEN YEARS.
As well as I know my children–which is much better than anyone else knows my children–sometimes I know them a little too well. Sometimes I have this idea of what they need and can’t see my way around it because I’ve been dealing with the same things for so long, and sometimes it has just been so long that I am all out of energy to think of something different. This is when it’s useful to have a fresh pair of eyes look at the situation. I’m around my kids all the time, so I have a different perspective than my husband, who isn’t around them as much, and definitely a different perspective than someone who doesn’t even (have to) live with them. Plus, there is the fact that my kids are often more inclined to buy certain things when they’re pitched by someone who a) doesn’t (have to) love them and/or b) isn’t talking through clenched teeth.
I am grateful for all the other adults who are helping to raise my daughter, but I’m especially grateful for the ones who work with her at church, who don’t have to love her but do anyway–in deed, if not in emotion. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have this level of support from their ward, which makes me sad. (I’m sure it makes Jesus sad, too.)
At any rate, I’m sure I will have a better experience at Girls Camp when I’m (forced to) attend and they actually give me an assignment other than shadowing my daughter. I can’t say I’m looking forward to it, because that would be lying (which also makes Jesus sad), but if I can support a program that helps other people’s kids (and helps parents by taking the kids off their hands for a week), that will be a good thing.*
* For someone else, probably not me. I’ll probably be an empty shell of a human being when it’s over, but we all have sacrifices to make for the Kingdom.