Friday, June 29, 2007

Notes to Self: Camping With Young Teens

Well, we moved up our Fletcher Family Friday Fun day by twenty-four hours this week to accommodate a camping reservation I made a few weeks ago at Myre - Big Island State Park. Four of my children were able to accompany me (actually they are our four youngest kids): Dominyk (11), Tony (12), Sadies (12) and Ricardo (13). Nestled amongst the fully leaved greenery of summertime was our camper cabin (two bunk beds, one table, electricity), which became our home for a little more than 18 hours.

Over the past hours I have made some mental notes to myself about the experience:

• Never underestimate the attraction to kids of nature. We spent some very nice times hiking the trails, visiting a marsh, sighting wildlife (deer, raccoon, rabbits, squirrels, birds).

• Never overestimate the attention span of children who have an ADHD (attentin-deficit hyperactivity disorder) diagnosis. Although I never heard "I'm bored," which frankly surprised me very much, we were not able to hike as long as I wished. After awhile all tree-shaded pathways look the same to kids, even if you are hiking on a big island in the midst of a large lake.

• Always remember that cooking with an open fire takes five times as long as anything in the home. We did all right once we got the fire going (which took an immensely long time), and enjoyed hot dogs, s'mores, and fruit pies made with pie irons. For breakfast we had omelets (again with the pie iron) and some leftover items for the day before.

• Always remember that fire has an attractional quality like nothing else. Had we done no more than created a fire for our eighteen hours there, the kids would have been satisfied. Dominyk posed as the State of Liberty, and the others participated in the ever-fun game of seeing who could closest to burning a sibling. (For those of you who are safety fanatics, their fire actions were nearly always attended by their father who did his best to teach good rules about fire safety).

• Never underestimate the power of scary stories to add a dimension of excitement to the experience. After it was dark last night we lighted two small battery-operated lanterns and I read scary stories from a book I had checked out from the library. The stories were the basic scary stories we have all heard as kids, and I was franklky surprised that they had such an impact on my kids who are usually so media-ized that something as mundane as reading is seen as lackluster. In the shadows of the quiet night our scary stories were a bonding time.

• Remember that when three-fourth's of the children you camp with are boys there will be countless discussions about, references to, and guffaws about genitalia and their uses, actual or future. I probably need to elaborate no further on this subject, so I won't.

• Remember that your kids won't be early or pre-teens forever. Enjoy these moments because they are fleeting.

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