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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Other People's Kids

I really don’t like other people’s kids that much.

There are, of course, exceptions. In fact, the older I get (and the more seasoned, e.g. “beaten down”) the more exceptions there are.

But, by and large, kids I don’t know scare the hell out of me.

So it was really weird when I felt a very specific inspiration to participate in my church’s three-day summer camp, "Fit for His Work" (FFHW). Usually I flee from Vacation Bible Schools and Harvest Carnivals at a high rate of speed.

The camp ended only and hour and a half ago, and I now sit in my cozy home sipping a glass of wine while, outside, there rages a storm of autumn-in-Seattle-proportions.

Today is only August the 19th, and this afternoon we see our very first termination dust. People become very divided over the issue of termination dust (when the highest-most parts of the mountains get their first snowfall). For every adult at FFHW who cheered over the snow (which will probably melt by tomorrow), there was other adult whacking him or her across the head.

I, for one, am tickled and thrilled (though, thankfully, no one hit me over the head). There is something about the anticipation and promise of snowy days that makes my stomach happily flutter.

FFHW began at 9am this morning at the Campbell Creek Science Center, which, until a couple weeks ago, I didn’t even know existed. It is only 15 minutes from my house, and as nature centers go, it is a going concern.

It covers over 700 acres of BLM land, which is connected to Chugach State Park, which eventually turns into Tongass National Forest. It is the doorway to a wild, ranging wilderness, and though not even a mile from residential neighborhoods, is absolutely untamed outside the beautifully groomed trail system.

There were many opportunities to see wilderness-in-progress today. On one hand, due to our recent incessant rainfall, we witnessed Campbell Creek four-feet above flood stage. The water flowed more swiftly than I have ever seen a stream or river flow. During our guided nature walk, I fretted that my five- and six-year old charges would try to test me by teetering over the creek bank. (I warned one child that if he went in, I wasn't going in after him.) Though I only had four kids in my care, given their personalities, I was not being overly paranoid. Several times, one particularly wayward kid had to be forcibly dragged away from the bank and back into the protection of the group.

Which leads me to the other kind of wilderness.

Other people’s kids. They are wild and unfathomable and scary. And for me, it’s very hard to discern appropriate discipline for someone else’s kid.

My “wayward” charge ended up slung over my shoulder for part of our walk for reasons I won’t go into. But I realize over time that often when I run into a kid who perhaps lacks firm boundaries with parents, or lives in an unsettled home, when that kid runs into an adult who is more than willing to enforce the rules, the rules are often challenged.

So, because I can’t stand to see kids disrespecting adults and blatantly throw down the gauntlet, I can’t help but pick it up. Even if the gauntlet is the kid, who gets slung over my shoulder and taken for an abdomen-compressing ride. If it were my kid, there would be much more than abdominal-compression to worry about.

So. After winning a round of “Sea, Sand, and Sidewalk” (as led by “Pastor Jeff”), stitching together three craft-foam water-bottle holders, twice running an obstacle course through torrential rain, and enduring children’s Bible-songs insipid enough to inspire even a teetotaling pastor to long for a cold-one, it is done.

It was a delightful experience. Will I do it again next year? Assume nothing.

Upon coming home this afternoon, I sent Bruce off fishing, perhaps for the last time this season. He is with a friend, and they will be driving two hours in the hopes of catching their limit (six each), and then will head home late tonight.

Evan and I spent a few minutes sitting in the living room’s bay window watching the rain pour torrentially, yet again. I used a Clorox wipe to clear the husks of summer’s mosquitos from the windowsill – a sure sign that fall is upon us.

I know most folks outside of Alaska are still enjoying their balmy summers, but I am feeling a little cocky that it is fall up here. Fall is, afterall, my favorite season.

The rain has let up, and I even see some blue sky to the southwest. Sun, rain, snow, or wind – I don’t really care. One is as magical as the other, if I'm willing to "go with it".

Life always seems to present “opportunities” to engage in things that evoke a feeling of discomfort and dislike. I wish I could find elements of enjoyment and delight in all times, despite obstacles, the way I did this weekend with the kids and the weather.


At 2:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is funny for me to read you do not like other people's kids. You seem to enjoy John Wesley quite a bit! :)

At 12:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great blog Linda!

Bran & Leslie


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