Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Camping With A Teenage Girl

Do you have a teenage daughter? Have you ever taken her camping? Are you going to be ok? Do you have the number of a support group I can contact? Some sort of program to get me through the worst of the pain, till the twitching stops???

Liz is an amazing kid, but we are just beginning her teenage years, and it turns out there are a whole lot of things I don't remember about teenagegirldom. And this becomes blatantly obvious on vacation.

Liz and I get along like a house on fire when we're out camping, because she is my daughter and I have ruined her. She is scared of the same things I am, and we are usually each other's first line of defense. We walk together to outhouses, and NEVER make spooky noises while the other one is peeing. We run from the same things in the dark. I can throw myself through the door of the tent trailer onto the floor and kick it shut behind me because I imagined I was being chased by skunks with knives (It can happen!), and she won't laugh at me, like OTHER people in our family do. We have a song we made up years ago for when we have to walk through a dim forest/empty field/past an abandoned building of any kind/in the dark/to an outhouse/isolated garbage bin. It has one line, repeated over and over, as we stomp along in time with the song (because marching makes you less likely to break into a run). It goes: "We are so brave. We are so brave. We are so brave. We are so brave. We are so brave," to a simple 3 note tune (that way it's easier to remember when your voice starts to quake).

She's always been one of those kids who makes her own way in life and doesn't really give a shit what other people think. It's one of the things I admire most about her, and one of the things that makes her so popular. She marches to the beat of her own drummer (usually a more interesting one than the one we used for our camping song), and her quirks are the best part of her.

When she was littler, she grew her hair really, really long, and shaved it off to raise money for the Canadian Cancer Association. I guess she had heard of someone doing it, and wanted to do it for a while, but figured there was no point unless you were going to REALLY sacrifice something. We cut 12 inches of hair off her 9 year old skull, and she raised $3298 doing it. I still can't believe how cool she looked with her bald noggin, and how proud we were of her.

Her first real 'boyfriend' was someone she dated for eleven and a half hours in Grade 7, until he wanted to go to a dance and she didn't, and he pouted, and she told him no man was going to tell her what to do and broke up with him (please, please, God, let this particular personality quirk last until her 50's!).

She has so many neat things about her that it's very rare for any of them to REALLY annoy me, but this year, camping with her was more challenging than ever before.

Although she is normally a very neat child, with a place for everything, and everything in its place, out camping there are fewer spaces for places and those that exist usually need to be shared by everyone. This meant that the 378,645 cubic inches of mascara, bronzer brush, lip stain, eyeliner, lip gloss, blush, bronzer, tweezers, eyebrow brush, face cleanser, makeup remover, eyeshadow brushes, lipstick, eye shadow, blush brush, and cotton balls she brought with her for the 10 days we were about to spend in the thriving metropolis of 'just outside Pincher Creek' were CONSTANTLY encroaching on everyone else's space.

Every time I tried to get the big pot out of the bottom cupboard to make dinner, I was pelted with a hail of Q-Tips. A simple search for my toothbrush resulted in near blindness caused by accidentally triggering a spray of HoneyDo perfumed body mist. (People should carry this stuff in Banff instead of Bear Spray- it completely incapacitated me. Even now, the smell of overripe fruit causes my eyes to tear up and sinuses to involuntarily drain.) Trying to find a diaper in an 8 x 12 tent trailer involved lifting my body weight (no mean feat) in cosmetics just to access the diaper bag, which had been emptied of its supply of baby wipes, as she prefers these to the harsher cleansers in the makeup remover she also brought along (apparently just to fill some weight requirement).

Her hair, which she used to care so little about that she allowed her father to shave it off, now requires the electrical output of a small village in Tanzania simply to keep it in an acceptable state for a week spent swimming in a muddy river. Her phone charger and IPod were plugged into the outlets that we had (incorrectly) assumed would be used to run the lights and power in the trailer, and the sound of her blow dryer drowned out singing birds for miles around. She had appropriated the longest extension cord we had because nothing else could reach the tent, where she was straightening her hair, and she was seriously annoyed that she we didn't have a power bar so she could heat her spiral curler at the same time. At one point, she actually UNPLUGGED LANA AND ERIK'S ENTIRE TRAILER to charge her Nintendo DS. (It was accidental, and she felt really bad, but we'll never let that one go. It's just too funny.)

She and the other girls were able to do near-professional manicures and pedicures on themselves, using the array of polishes, files, and buffers that they had brought with them for the trip (in comparison, Isaiah was excited simply to find a $5 pair of sneakers without holes in them to wear after his 6 weeks volunteering at a wilderness bible camp). She sacrificed a $20 beach towel to clean clay (CLAY!) off her body when the kids found a deposit in the river and spent 3 hours sculpting, and used my entire supply of laundry loonies to wash and rewash her white bathing suit to remove the streaks of mud. She used up a brand new bottle of body wash in 6 days (one intended to last the family a whole week), because camping makes her sweaty and she has to shower twice a day.

At one point, I started to sob quietly simply at the thought of having to go into the cooler after her (she doesn't like to screw lids onto jars, and more than once I have had to clean crystallized, half-frozen pickle juice off the steaks before thawing them). I gave up on arguing with her about her helmet when she rode her bike (it ruins her hair), because somehow, the 35 feet to the playground didn't seem worth the battle. I learned to leave her alone for the 2 hours in the afternoon where she disappears with her video games and music because I KNOW she needs a rest or she will be moody for the rest of the day. I began to adapt.

And here is what makes this all bearable. At one point, the tent that all the girls were sleeping in developed a leak, and I went looking for our roll of bright yellow duct tape. After several fruitless minutes, I asked her what had become of it, and she informed me that she had used it to make shoes. Yep. Shoes. She had gotten instructions for making duct tape shoes, and because yellow is a cool color, had used up the roll we keep in the camping fixit box. Come on. Tell me this isn't cool. My wonderful daughter had used up something I desperately needed, but she did it in such an awesome, creative way that I was too busy being impressed by her to give a hoot about the tape (besides- I didn't need to sleep in a puddle- that was her problem). And, despite the fact that making duct tape shoes sounds like it should be required learning for the homeless, she wore them all over the place this past summer, and inspired home repair fashion in countless other teenagers.

So I will keep being proud of my funny, independent daughter, and I will keep learning to camp with a teenage girl. Because the thing that scares me most of all is that someday, that teenage girl will stop wanting to camp with me.

1 comment:

  1. I know that she's an amazing person! She has inspired those around her in many ways!