Ursula’s new backpack leans against her bed, its top opened wide. All its 6.5 liters of volume are empty at the moment — the long underwear, socks, hiking boots, rain gear, and mess kit that will fill it still scattered about her bedroom. I’ve promised Ursula that I’ll finish packing today while she’s 20 miles away, preparing for a circus show tonight. Early tomorrow morning, we’ll deliver her to her first Teen Wilderness Adventure.
It’s already been an adventure just getting Ursula ready to go, which is to say that we’ve already been surprised and challenged. Back in January, I had no hesitation about signing her up for the AMC course, 9 days of rock-climbing and backpacking in the White Mountains. She’s always enjoyed our family backpacking trips, and she’s loved learning to climb. We’d just spent a ski weekend with family friends, who were signing up their two daughters for the same adventure. I told her about the course almost in passing, the rightness of it was so obvious to me.
Ursula has turned 13 since I filled out that registration. Over these past months, she’s asked for more responsibility in managing her schoolwork, her activities, and her schedule, and handled it very well. Over that same period of time, she’s complained that I signed her up for the teen adventure without consulting her. She’s hated that I’d treated her like a child.
There are moments in every parent-child relationship that mark a change in its ground rules. This course has been one such marker of change between me and Ursula. Once she made her frustration clear, I apologized and gave her the option of not doing the course. She chose to stay on, but I understand (having been a teenager myself) why she’s had a hard time getting excited about it. I also suspect (having been there before, too) that she may be feeling some anxiety about whether she’ll fit in. That’s a common concern among first-time campers, at AMC as at traditional sleep-away camps, and one that Ursula’s instructors will undoubtedly work to dispel.
I’m holding out hope that she’ll have a great time, for herself. And that the next time she goes on a backpacking trip, she’ll do her own packing.
- Read “AMC’s Teen Wilderness Adventures: A Parents’ Primer”
“Great Kids, Great Outdoors” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Kristen Laine.
Labels: AMC, Kristen Laine, parenting, teen adventure, White Mountains