It was raining when I took the kids to camp yesterday at the Audubon nature center. It’s a great summer camp program. The kids get outside a lot, and they learn about stuff related mostly to local geology and environment – rocks, water, prairies, crystals, birds. Students are encouraged to touch and explore, get dirty and wet. This isn’t usually a problem for Jesse or Nick, but it’s more complicated with Jesse. She’s fine with the filth and wet of nature, but only when she’s outside. In nature. If things get on her inside a building or at the wrong moment, she can fall off the rails.
I had an intuition the rain could be a problem, because Jesse might get wet on the way into camp. It’s okay to get wet AT camp when they go outside, but ARRIVING wet is different. It’s potentially very, very bad, depending on how aggressively Jesse’s OCD and anxiety are acting up. I thought this through as I packed rain boots and gear in the car. The class starts inside, and Jesse doesn’t like to wear her rain boots inside. It would be a pain to wear her boots for the commute and then change to her sneakers when she got to the classroom, because the boots were caked in mud from the prior camp day and would get wet and muddy, so there was a high probability she’d get mud on the wrong part of her body during the shoe exchange, and then all manner of whining and disintegration could ensue. I evaluated two alternative futures – wet sneakers vs. mud from boots – and concluded the lowest risk path was wet sneakers.
Sure enough, when it was time to leave, Jesse expressed concern about her sneakers getting wet. So we had to have a debate about it, which boiled down to this:
Jesse: Mommy! Go get my boots!!
The actual exchange was slightly longer and slightly more excruciating, but in the end Jesse put on the sneakers without any threats, which a few months ago would have been a minor miracle. She ran out to the car and got in as fast as she could. We drove to the Audubon. I parked about 200 yards from the entrance. As I pulled gear out of the trunk, Jesse barked a command to Nick. “Run to the door!” He shot off like a greyhound.
The Audubon parking lot is not a safe place. Crazed parents desperate to unload their miserable kids careen about madly in their SUVs and minivans, apparently oblivious to the idea that other crazed parents are also struggling to get their spawn to camp and might not want them to be run over. I’m filled with terror when we walk through that parking lot, especially when we come to the part where there’s a blind hairpin turn near the entry sidewalk, right where we have to cross the road. You never know what’s going to come ripping around that turn.
So I yelled at the kids as they rushed to their certain deaths. “Stop! Wait for me! Parking lot!! DANGER!!! CARS!!!”
Jesse yelled back, “But my shoes will get wet!”
Grrrr. Still, they slowed down enough for me to catch up. I nattered at both of them. “You know it’s not safe to run in a parking lot blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah! Blah-blaaah blah-blaaah. Which is worse, being hit by a car or having wet shoes?”
Never ask rhetorical questions to a smart ass. Jesse’s answer was inevitable. “Wet shoes,” she replied, without hesitation and in a tone that said “DUH.” My eyes rolled a couple times around the track, but I held my tongue. I said my little mantra in my mind (“it’s why we’re in therapy, it’s why we’re in therapy”).
I made Nick and Jesse stop at the scary turn, and when I was sure it was safe I told them now they could run. Jesse was visibly annoyed with me as they raced across the road and up the sidewalk, because WET SHOES.
Then suddenly she stopped, a good 30 paces from the doorway to DryLand. Nick ran right on to the door, but Jesse bent way over and was staring at something. I gritted my teeth as I approached, preparing for the worst. Was she going to obsess on a wet spot on her shoe or sock? Maybe some mud or dirt splashed up on her leg? Whatever it was, it wouldn’t be pretty.
“What’s wrong, Jesse?” I asked tentatively, not sure which battle I’d be fighting in the next few minutes as I tried to drag her into her camp class.
“Look,” she chirped cheerfully. “Slugs!”
I stood in the rain, watching Jesse’s shoes get wet as she watched the slugs. I couldn’t hide my exasperation.
“Jesse. Get it up and go. Which is more important to you? Slugs or wet shoes?”
She answered without hesitation, a smile on her face. “Slugs.”
Duh. Who knew slugs were an antidote to OCD.
SLUGS ROCK! OK, not really, but for her I’ll pretend they do. Glad she was able to get out of herself for a bit and enjoy the slugs, and I hope they saved the rest of the day with wet shoes for you.
Camp is such a gamble. My daughter had a week at Girl Scout camp that was all outdoors, with her BFF that she was REALLY looking forward to. It was 115 every day. They survived, but barely. Another year, it was swim camp (I believe for that same first week after school in June), and it was 60, and foggy and windy, and she wouldn’t go to swim camp, and I couldn’t blame her. Why we couldn’t have reversed the two, I don’t know.