Part 2: During
Sweet Pea comes home tomorrow late morning from Mt. Misery and so far I haven’t heard anything, which is exactly what is supposed to happen. For those of you NOT from Our Town, Mt. Misery is a camp/retreat-like place in the Pine Barrens (pinelands) of NJ. There is a Methodist church retreat there, but that is of course not affiliated with Our Town’s public school trip in any way, so don’t get your knickers in a church-and-state twist. The kids all sleep in “cabins” that are kind of a cross between dorms and summer camp-style cabins that sleep 6 or so. Gender-specific, of course. And there is a grown-up teacher/administrator in every cabin. The shared bathrooms have (gasp) indoor plumbing. There is a nurse to handle bug bites, nose bleeds or any medicine issues (For the asthmatic Sweet Pea with sinusitis and ADHD… Yeah, we have meds). The all eat family style in a cafeteria and are required to share the work of table setting, serving and clearing dishes. They may even be encouraged to say “please” and “thank you”, that’s how hard-core it is. Breakfast every day is cold cereal with hot choices on days one and two. The lunch and dinner menus are a who’s who of kid cuisine: Chicken nuggets, spaghetti and meatballs, ravioli, tacos and the like (and possibly some Kool Aid to drink?). The kids leave school at nine-ish in the morning and stay for three nights, coming back to school around 11 am on the fourth day.
Mt. Misery is pioneer-style in that there is a “No Technology” rule. No lap tops, no cell phones, no iPods, no digital cameras, they even made a point to mention no alarm clocks with radios. (Those crazy kids with their crazy clock radio music!) Not knowing what is going on with my four year-old 6th grader for four days is the obvious downside of this policy. The delight of the no technology rule is that whatever is going on, someone else has to handle it. It almost sounds too good to be true, but it is true! SweetPea can’t sleep? Social Studies Teacher has to tuck him in. ADHD symptoms at record-breaking levels at 6am? Call the Assistant Principal to take him for a walk before he wakes up every other kid in the place. If he breaks a bone, I am sure they can figure out how to get me on the phone, but barring bleeding from the eyes, Sweet Pea is all theirs.
The trip is “Environmental Education”. It is in the curriculum, and that’s the excuse rationale for going. They actually learn some cool stuff about the Pinelands ecosystem, test water quality (this is NJ, after all, who knows what they will find) and search for Jimmy Hoffa learn about the food web. They do a challenge ropes course together and also have a lesson on orienteering which involves learning how to eat bugs because you are hopelessly lost in the woods a compass and is what people did before GPS, cell phones and yelling were invented. Actually, given my personal track record with getting lost, I should look into this.
I have to say although it is particularly quiet here, I really miss Sweet Pea. BUT, I have not been especially anxious about him being gone. Is it an extensive denial system? Maybe. Is it being busy with two other howler monkeys children? Absolutely. Throw in a little book club, a couple of cocktails, and several reassuring friends and I think we have our answer. I was expecting anxiety, spiced with some discomfort bordering on abject fear, and what I got was peace and quiet. Huh. Go figure. Maybe Sweet Pea growing up has an upside. He will be five before I know it.
(Editor’s Note: I reserve the right to take all this back or to totally deny saying it at all after I hear what actually happened on the trip.)