I had the opportunity to go to Young Women's camp last week. To be honest, it wasn't something I looked forward to. I had been called to work with the girls only a month before camp, so I wasn't involved with the planning, but the other leaders kept talking about how it would be a survivor experience, at the girl's request. On top of that, I knew I would struggle with my allergies.
The Laurel's (the 16-17 year-olds) left on Wednesday to canoe the river. As a mother, I was a little concerned because they had so little experience. Every time they planned a practise trip, it had to be cancelled because of the very wet spring we had. The rivers were always too high, and they were lucky the one they ended up going on had dropped low enough for them to go. I sent my oldest daughter of and trusted that two of the men going with them had enough experience to bring them all in safely.
The rest of the girls and leaders met Thursday morning. We loaded up our gear and headed out to the campsite. When we arrived, I was glad to see the older girls and they were certainly glad to see us. My daughter started crying when she saw me and gave me a huge hug. She didn't look so good. Her face was a little swollen and her eyes were puffy and red. She told us how they had had quiet the adventure on the river, and almost every member of their group had been dumped from a canoe at least once. At one point, she ended up in the water and got tangled up in a tree branch. It held her under water a little longer than was comfortable, but she realized that if she stopped fighting it, she might float free. It worked, but left her quite shaken.
I realized quickly that the red face was more than the result of a few tears. Over the next 24 hours it continued to swell and become more painful for her. I suggested several times that I take her home so we could get medical attention for it, but she refused and insisted on sticking it out. We gave her antihistamines and watched her closely.
The first thing the girls had to do was set up camp. They had planned on building their own shelter and the leaders weren't supposed to help. The also had to dig a latrine and set up a food preparation area. It took them some time, but they worked together well and accomplished the tasks. The other big activity they had was their version of the amazing race. They were given maps and directions, then they had to use a compass to follow the map and get to each station. At every stop there were certain tasks they had to do - fire starting, whittling, first aid, making a travois and transporting a team member, and identifying edible and non-edible plants. There was also a difficult obstacle course just after lunch. It was a hot day and the activity took a lot out of them, but they did it. Of course, when all that was over, they were grateful for all the free time when they could just play in the river.
I was so proud of my girls. My youngest felt a little out of place. It was her first camp and she has a hard time relating with the other girls there, but she never complained. She kept a smile on her face and went out of her way to encourage others and cheer people up. As for my oldest daughter, I have rarely seen such strength of character. I would have quit long before she did. Instead of moaning about how difficult things were, she kept asking how the others were doing and trying to help them out. She worked hard even when some of the other girls didn't want to. Saturday morning, she finally agreed that a trip to the nearest emergency room would be in order. While I finished getting things ready to go, she busied herself helping another leader do some work around camp. And through it all, she smiled and kept a positive attitude. I don't think I could have done the same.
By the time we got home, the pain finally got to her. Her smile faded and she just wanted to sleep all afternoon. The medication seems to be working slowly and we made another trip to the doctor today. He thinks she reacted to the sun and possibly the sunscreen. The swelling is starting to go down, although she is still quite red. She looks like she has two black eyes (well, really red and purple eyes). The hardest part for her is realizing that she will have to be careful when out in the sun. I told her she'll just have to make hats part of her own personal style, although she thinks she'll look dumb. She things I'm just being a silly mother when I tell her that she will always be beautiful.
In the end, I was very proud of all the girls at camp. It was wonderful to be with a group that got along, worked well together and didn't have any little fights during the time we were there. They were strong and I hope they all learned that they can do hard things. As for my own daughters, I hope I can live up to their example. They are amazing girls who teach me everyday. I'm just thankful I get to be their mother.