Saturday, July 26, 2008

First Times

There's something magical about firsts. Your first kiss. Your first apartment. Your first plane trip. Your first child. I'm still convinced that the anticipation and fear of doing something for the first time is as important as actually doing it. There is a wonder, an excitement and an air of mystery that precedes those turning points in our lives. But more than that, it is a state of being--of naiveté--that is ultimately lost through those very experiences; a stage that we later look back on with feelings of nostalgia, those sweet days of youth and the process of 'becoming.' For, of all of the experiences that will shape us into who we will become, aren't these the most memorable?

This weekend, we had our first overnight camping trip as a family. Laugh if you like, but it was surprisingly moving for me, for a few reasons. First of all, I am not an outdoor person by any means, and truly believe I was a house cat in a former life. A book, a bed, a cup of coffee and some music are all I need to make me happy, none of which is found in the wild. I despise bugs, am always cold (even indoors) and humidity makes my hair frizz. Truly, in the raising of children, nature is my husband's department. Secondly, I know my son Ben well and was convinced that he would not sleep all night. He moves around constantly in bed at home, is a very light sleeper and, when overtired, has to cry himself to sleep. For these reasons alone, a four-person tent in the woods overnight did not sound like my idea of a good time.

So I spent the day emotionally preparing myself. I asked my neighbors to walk the dog for us while we were gone, and I did minimal work to wean myself from my computer, so I wouldn't stress over being away from it for 18 hours. I packed a book and a reading light. I brought my iced coffee. The cub scout pack was going to provide food and games, and the boys were excited, so I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

One scavenger hunt, one barbecue, one snapping turtle sighting, two caught fish, one Indian ceremony, three latrine visits and one campfire later, it was 10:15pm. After Jacob conked out and Ben cried himself to sleep next to me, I laid on the hard ground looking up at the full moon wondering how *I* was going to sleep. But the next thing I knew, it was 6:15am, and Ben was saying to my face, "Mom, did you know that dying is worse than throwing up?" and then launching into a well-thought out explanation of why.

Sugared cereal for breakfast--that we never get at home--and all the other cub scouts ready to play 'hunters and horses' and climb on the rocks made the morning even more memorable. The car was packed and ready to go by 8:00, but no one wanted to leave.

Years ago, I would have worried over whether we should take the boys camping at this age, or whether it would be too hard on them to be up so late, too much work, too cold, too scary, too something. But I have learned that, like every other first experience, it's going to happen sometime. First times are part of the growing process. As long as we know we are ready for them, and have planned well, the memories they create will be greater than any misgivings that may precede them. And that nervous anticipation? Embrace it--it's all part of the journey.

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