My kid and I love sharing nature, I want to camp and hike with him, I want that to be part of our shared life, but it’s a bit tough these days. I’m a gimp. We do what we can.
Sometimes I stand at the top of a slope as he approaches a bird near the water and say, “Please stay back from the edge, it would be very hard for me to rescue you on a steep slope.” (See this picture? That’s what I was saying. Really. I have to trust him. And I could do it, but I might have to get help to get back up, and oh boy would it hurt.)
My mom grew up a Girl Scout and was a rugged Girl Scout leader. She believed in it. But when I was little, I tried both Scouts and Campfire Girls, and neither worked for me, though I liked Campfire better. The Scout leader was devoutly religious and not in a way that matched well with my own family’s religion, and I swear we baked brownies and did nothing else at every danged meeting. The Campfire group felt more inclusive and fun, but it was still mostly home-craft related. We did a lot of small-scale stitchery. I don’t think either group ever went outdoors.
In high school, during a summer of family upheaval, I got to go on one long canoe trip down the Eel River with a welcoming local Girl Scout troop I didn’t belong to, and attended Girl Scout summer camp twice, including one ten-day backpacking trip. This remains among the best periods in my life. I felt welcome, strong, and cared for; these girls and women felt like community.
A few years back, while we were planning our family, I was hoping that if we had a girl, I’d be so excited to try Girl Scouts. But now we have a boy. And I love him, I don’t wish he were a girl—but not long after he hit toddlerhood, I went on a hunt for a scouting-like group that’s more inclusive (BSA has gotten better but still doesn’t quite match our family’s style) and have found two that are mostly right, but because alt-scouting groups are thin on the ground, both groups are a small schlep away—and then there’s the issue of my being able to participate. I’d really profoundly want to be part of the activities (both groups value adult participation) but both of them have very physical groups.
They’re far enough away that I’d consider trying to start my own group, but I have no youth program leadership experience, and then there are my energy and physical limitations that would be a huge barrier, if not to participation, then to leadership. I would not be able to do it without a lot of support and help.
Here’s the thing: I’m somewhat physically disabled. My small motor skills suck rocks, and I have mobility impairments. It’s quite possible that both might get better if I match up with an effective treatment, but for now, reading about the activities makes me wince. I want to camp, but at this point would need help putting up a tent (if needed, I don’t always need them), I would absolutely require an elevated camp cot for sleeping, and other participation would be a challenge. So I could camp, but I’d need a lot of extra gear, and it would be a challenge.
Knot tying? That’s amusing, I can’t currently secure shoe laces. And I can hike a mile total on my best days, but not two days in a row.
What can I offer? A real love for natural history and the planet itself, and I’m good with kids, really really good. I love communicating information and sharing environmental stewardship with them.
My kid’s other parents are awesome but not especially outdoorsy. I’d be the campingest parent in the family.
So I’m feeling a bit stuck. I know I’ll work it out, and the best bet is probably to contact both groups (my kid will be old enough for one of them soon, and for the other not for two years yet) and let them give me feedback.
I’m dealing with it today by taking my kid out for a short hike and a visit to the nature center in one of our gorgeous regional parks. It might rain, but we have ponchos. We are a nature scout pack of two.