The Wilderness We Know

My son might as well be entering a unknown cave full of snakes, lizards, turtles and frogs. At least that’s what I imagine. It’s the first day of his first summer camp, following a year of kindergarten unlike any other.

Due to the pandemic, he spent the first part of the year at home, with virtual learning zoomed into a computer in his room, where we saw too much of what happened in a class. He wouldn’t sit still or repeat after the teacher. He couldn’t pay attention. If he wasn’t called on, he couldn’t contain the frustration and often gave up or left the room in a fury of tears and screams.

Then he went back to in-person learning, and we were stopped at the door. Families couldn’t go into the classroom, couldn’t volunteer, couldn’t hold their kids’ hands, couldn’t be there on the days they laughed and cried. Of course, we still got the calls on the really bad days, so we knew about that part. Camp could be the same – saying good bye at the car, temperature checks at the door, and all of us keeping all our emotions in check.

Because all of this is scary – not the snake, lizard, turtles and frogs through – that part we signed up for.

His first camp focused on reptiles and amphibians, led through the local nature center, a location almost as familiar as our backyard. He’s been through the front doors dozens of times, looping it’s mile-long path at a toddle, walk, and now run. He’s memorized the map. But this time, he’s going in a different route, through the aptly named education center, for a week-long day camp full of discovery. Even through the glass door, we can’t see how deep the cave might be.

He’s going in on his own, and I’m not sure the staff knows what they signed up for.

If the building he’s walking into really was a cave, he would be searching for dragons. He’s already told us that in the car, adding the mythical creatures to the list of well-known reptiles. I want to tell the staff to be ready. That there are dragons ahead, on unmarked maps. Maybe they already know. They’ve probably been down this path before or one similar, with other children leading the way. He won’t be the first one, I remind myself, to challenge them, to imagine things that happened, to breath metaphorical fire until they remind him to calm down. They’ve done this before. After all, they are the experts in many wild creatures.

This post is part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to view the next post in the series “Contrast”.

One response to “The Wilderness We Know”

  1. Rachel Nevergall Avatar
    Rachel Nevergall

    I love what you did with this essay, Amy. There is so much to reflect upon when we send our children through closed doors. I see your son’s bravery shining through you, too.


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