When I signed Fiona up for the Girl Scout campout back in April, I figured I’d be ready for it when August rolled around. But I hadn’t put two and two together – hadn’t really looked at the calendar, and so I missed that it was the weekend after school had begun. All the end of summer anxiety and rushing around for school supplies and gym shoes and fixings for bag lunches filled the beginning of our week and then, just as we were ready to collapse on Friday night into our traditional pizza and movie, we realized we needed bug spray and a duffle bag and something to bring along to tie-dye.
As we rushed around on Friday night with an increasingly ornery toddler and exhausted kids, I left my phone in one of the stores we visited. Of course. And of course I didn’t realize until we’d returned home and the stores had closed. Of course we were scheduled to leave at 7:30 the next morning.
My anxiety reached a peak on Friday night: the prospect of being out of contact with the world for two days coupled with the jitters of having to spend time with new people – other mothers I don’t know well — and the anxious hope that Fiona, our nine year old, would have a good time. I even got caught up in her anxiety about having the “right” duffle bag. I want things to be right for her; I know it often feels like there is a lot at stake in little things.
We were, predictably, late for appointed time of departure, and we arrived harried and rushed in the rain. But then… all was well. Our carpool buddies were lovely: I talked with the driver the whole way up, and Fiona and her daughter chatted and played cards and assembled SWAPs (a Girl Scout acronym I knew for a few minutes but have since forgotten). We arrived, and the camp was beautiful, our cabin was nice, the food was… well, fine… I absolutely loved having the individual time with my big girl that we sometimes miss with the crowd of our five-person brood. The moms were great, and the girls had a wonderful time. They played in the pool, giggled over their skit, and took pride in their newfound abilities with both kayaks and lanyards.
Not having my phone was strange and strangely wonderful. I missed being able to check in with Josh – and I wished for a camera to capture all the moments of playful fun. But I also appreciated, surprisingly, being grounded in the moment. I brought a book, and snuck off to sit on the porch outside the mess hall in the morning with a cup of coffee to read and journal. I don’t know when I last did that. It was glorious.
I had been so anxious, so hurried – and the time to slow down and enjoy being with my daughter was a tremendous gift. I don’t know that the moral of this story is to hurry up and rush in order to relax; or that we have to leave the state and surround ourselves by Girl Scouts in order to do it. (Though there was something wonderful about being with the Girl Scouts in particular, with the emphasis on both kindness and building agency; read here for a recent story in the Doings about Union Church’s own Mary Sue Hoenigschmidt, Girl Scout leader extraordinaire). I think the learning for me, rather, was that sometimes I get caught up in worry — worry that I won’t fit in (even now, as an adult), worry that I’ll be uncomfortable, worry that things will go wrong – and I run the risk of missing out on wonderful things.
As parents with young children gear up for the new school year, as the church gears up for the new program year, and as we recommit to growing together as a community of faith, it’s likely some of us will feel that anxiety of a full schedule start to rise. But my hope is that our nervousness of new opportunities won’t prevent us from trying new things, from taking a leap of faith into the abundant life together to which Christ invites us.
Reverend Bromleigh McCleneghan
Associate Pastor for Ministry with Families
The Union Church of Hinsdale, U.C.C.