By Sylvie Griffiths:
The last time I went camping was about 1988. I was ten years old and I accompanied my best friend and her family to a natural spring here in Florida. We camped in a camper, which I have recently learned, is a bit easier than tent camping, but I will get to that. I somehow put in the position to take my four kids camping in Orlando with my youngest son’s Cub Scout group without the assistance of my husband, who was stuck working. To say I had anxiety about this scenario would be an underestimation. The days leading up to the trip I packed and repacked. I bought bug spray I knew we would need and that I would also realize I left at home. My oldest daughter was turning 13 on the camping trip day; another complication surrounding this “adventure”. I out sought advice from friends with camping experience, but their questions and my lack of answers clearly did not improve my stress level. So, on a very early Saturday morning, my kids and I left for Orlando. We were camping with several Cub Scout dens and this was the biggest annual camping event I had been told. My husband and I nearly broke the bank buying things we never needed before such as tents, supplies, and sleeping bags. Food and ice were packed into a huge cooler; another item we had to borrow due to not possessing one. My older two kids were not excited at all; this made me feel bad because I knew with a big birthday one expects a certain amount of fanfare, but camping was the focus.
So, why, you may ask did I put myself through all this? Why did I even commit to doing something unnatural, stressful, and expensive while working two jobs and finishing an MBA? My three oldest children, my husband, and I were camping for our youngest; Jake. Although Jake’s name is not tattooed on my body like his other three siblings, his birth name of “Lillee” is on my left arm. Jake identifies as being a transgender male. I have not uttered the name my husband and I decided on back in 2009 in roughly two years now. Last August, Jake begged to join a local den after hearing about Cub Scouts at his elementary school. Camping is a huge part of scouting and on each trip, the scouts can earn badges. But to Jake, scouting makes him a for real, actual, boy in so many ways. He thrives in the environment and is well liked by peers and parents. He loves being dirty and running around outside. And this trip to camp at Fort Wilderness was something he was excited about for 6 months prior, Jake was pretty much-obsessed scout inspired camping.
The night we camped it was freezing, causing several families to opt not to camp overnight. My poor husband, after working a 10-hour day, got stuck on the interstate for three hours when he attempted to drive out to the campground. Without the help of a friendly cub scout father, I would not have been able to figure out the tent situations or cooking. There were some serious challenges. On Sunday morning, we got up early; dirty and cranky, and left. The kids were sleepy and my husband and I were beyond exhausted. Yet, the result of camping was realized by all of us at a Waffle House. Jake was beyond excited about the experience; he earned a new badge, he made new friends, and he now had his own personal sleeping bag. Jake was getting to do dude stuff, and in case you don’t know this is hugely important as a child transitions. My heart was so full that morning at breakfast as my husband and I exchanged smiles as Jake talked on and on. My oldest daughter suddenly didn’t mind that we were celebrating her birthday a day late. Clearly, our family did not camp just to try camping. We did not spend hundreds of dollars we needed to save on camping supplies because we were turning over a new outdoorsy leaf. Our family is supporting and encouraging Jake being, well, Jake. My older two kids said they never want to go camping again, and I cannot blame them for that. I think I will give it a try again, and hey we certainly have the supplies needed. Our family will continue to support our Jake in any way we can, even if it involves sleeping on the ground outside. Or perhaps we will rent a cabin next time.
About Sylvie Griffiths:
Sylvie is a happily married mother of four who enjoys writing, people and chocolate.
She is an Evaluation Associate and has a Bachelor’s Degree in Behavioral Healthcare-Adult Community Concentration, from the University of South Florida. She holds more than ten years of experience in performance assessment and behavioral health services and is currently enrolled as an MBA student at Springfield College, School of Professional and Continuing Studies.