I'm less scared about the middle school years--the whole mean girls syndrome and the angst of being a young teen--after spending the weekend camping with 7 sixth graders and 12 of the Brownies in Doodle's troop. The older girls were terrific as they took on a teaching role with the 3rd graders. They were kind, funny, and even a bit goofy with the younger girls, and more importantly with each other. I didn't see any mean spiritedness, pettiness, or exclusion--just girls who were comfortable with themselves and who were ready to make any situation a fun one. A little rain and cool temperatures did not dilute their spirits. If Doodle and her friends turn out 3/4 as well, I will be thrilled.
The 3rd graders, a little disappointed that they didn't see deer or other large wildlife, became obsessed with the slug they found, affectionately named Senor Slug. Here is a photo of some of the girls and the slug. Our Brownies troop has not exactly roughed it on previous overnight outings (staying in one Brownies' fabulous beach house and in a lodge with bunk beds) but we were expecting to be more exposed to the elements this time. It was not to be: we stayed in the camp's lodge, with heat and electricity, although we did all have to sleep on the floor and we cooked our lunch and dinner outdoors over the campfire.
I celebrated my 45th birthday during this camping trip, in a stealth manner. I didn't let the other moms know that it was my special day. The girls, my mom, and I had a quick celebration before we left on Saturday morning, and we went out to dinner after we got home tonight. I savored my birthday dessert--a s'more with a marshmallow toasted to perfection in the campfire--and hope that I will still be able to sleep on the floor without too much discomfort when I hit the next five-year milestone birthday in 2012. When we pulled into the driveway this afternoon, Tootle ran out of the house before I even turned off the ignition. The hug that the girls shared upon being reunited, and the fun of watching Doodle teach Tootle the hand motions to YMCA as we listened to Doodle's party CD on our way to dinner, are some of my best memories of a weekend filled with sweet moments.