Saturday, September 10, 2011

"Run! Run! The adults are cheating!"

Comic drawn by Rachel (age 12)

Isn't it a parent's purpose to teach their children what is right and what is wrong? At least that is the illusion that I have been under for the past 28 years, and counting...

13 years ago I found out that not all parents share this philosophy.  That was the time that I volunteered to chaperone my daughter's 6th-grade weeklong adventure to Outdoor School at the Oregon Coast. 

I think my decision to chaperone Rachel's class was cemented two years before when I was greeting the school bus that my second son was on returning from his week at camp.  The teacher came off the bus first, scanned the gathering crowd of proud and excited parents and walked straight up to me. I had a sinking feeling that things had not gone well.  The exact circumstances are bit fuzzy but I think that it involved my son punching another boy in the face on the first day. Two years before that, when my oldest went to camp, one of the other boys ran into a branch at night and poked his eye. 

So, feeling a bit of pressure regarding our family legacy and to ensure that safety prevailed and trouble was avoided, I volunteered.  It was a time of learning, a time of forming a life-long friendship, and a time of awakening.

And a time of great fun.  We dissected squid (finding their beaks, eyeballs, and ink sacs), took walks along the coastal strand (learning about shifting sand dunes, invasive beach grass, and the wreck of the Peter Iredale), and examined squirming creatures in water samples from a brackish pond.  

We took night-hikes and learned about rods and cones (photoreceptors in the human retina that help you see color), and we sat around campfires listening to stories, singing songs, and filling our clothes and hair with wood-smoke.  I even brought Earnest Hemmingway's, The Old Man and the Sea and lulled the girls with sleepy bedtime stories every night to calm their excited spirits.

Close to the final evening the entire camp (boys, girls, chaperones, teachers, camp workers) played a chasing game - I think it was called Predator / Prey. I distinctly remember that during the instructions it was stated where the "Out Of Bounds" areas were and that anyone who went there would be immediately disqualified.  What was unique and somewhat odd about the rules was that it was the adults against the kids.

Being that my legs are short and therefore not built for speed, I was quickly tagged out of the game.  I got to watch from the sidelines and cheer my comrades on. Until I realized what they were up to.  The adults were winning because they were cheating. They were taking short-cuts through and hiding in the Out-of-Bounds Areas giving them a distinct advantage.

A sense of fairness overtook my allegiance and I leapt from my comfortable log by the fire and ran screaming throughout the panicked children, "Run! Run! The adults are cheating! Use the Out-of-bounds Areas!"  In the end, the tide turned, and the kids ended up winning the game. As it should be.

I was shunned by the other adults for the rest of the week (except Judi, the other cabin-mom, who was my conspirator that night and new life-long-friend). 

Moral of the story? The sense of Right depends on what side of it you are on.  And, grownups can be such sore losers.

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