The other day, while I was spelunking through Clementine’s backpack in a futile search for a permission slip that her teacher assured me had already been sent home twice before, I came across a heretofore undiscovered vein of lost permission slips. Pulling out my trusty pick, I fearlessly set to work, and after a few short hours was rewarded with permission slips for not one, not two, but three upcoming field trips. (On a side note: can somebody please explain to me why, when filling out permission slips, I have to put the exact same information on both sides of the paper? Because the only reason I can think of for doing it that way is in case one side of the paper becomes completely illegible due to bloodstains, and, if that’s the case, then no, you don’t have my permission to take my child on your field trip.)
Anyway, when the confetti of the excavation finally cleared I noticed that one of the permission slips was for a trip to the NAU ropes course, which is one of those team-building exercises that emphasize trust, problem-solving, and overcoming your fears. They usually also involve some kind of above-the-ground element like tight-rope walking. I haven’t done the NAU one, but I’ve done others like it, and personally I’ve always thought they were kind of cool. Which means, of course, that to Clementine and her friends, they are completely dull. (“Walking a tightrope twenty feet up in the air? B-o-r-i-n-g.”)
The ironic part is that she and her friends have been creating their very own ropes course ever since the snow started to melt—and, judging from how often they show up at my house soaking wet, creating a spectacularly unsuccessful one.
Blame it on Rio (the Rio de Flag, that is). The normally dry drainage that runs right through the middle of town (and right behind Flagstaff Middle School) is now, thanks to this year’s Snowpocalypse, a raging torrent. (Well, moving at least.) Which means that several of the usual routes to school are now underwater. Which means that my poor daughter, and her equally poor best friend, (already forced to walk nearly half a mile to school—“But why can’t we take the bus?” “Um, because the bus stop is farther away than the school?”) are now forced to walk an additional twenty or so feet out of their way to get to school.
Their only other option is to risk a perilous crossing of the Rio via a series of smaller and decreasingly less stable dry branches balanced precariously over the top of the fast moving water. Hmm: guaranteed safe (and dry) passage via sidewalk, or sketchy high wire crossing via unsafe bridges of unknown origin. I wonder: which way will they choose? (Actually, I already know: the Law of Watery Attraction states that, when given a choice of how to proceed, a child will always choose the wetter of the two options. And, for the purposes of this Law, please note that the term “child” can apply to anyone up until the age of fifty or so.)
So yeah, they’ll go out of their way to walk through fire (or rather, freezing water) to get to school, but put a harness on them and guarantee their safety and suddenly it becomes “boring.”
Who knows: maybe that’s just the price we pay for creating such a litigious society for them to grow up in—already at age thirteen they believe that nothing approved by an adult can possible contain enough real risk to be exciting. So can we really blame them that, when given the choice between a sanctioned “ropes” course and a sketchy DYI course of their own invention, they choose the homemade model?
Actually, as the person in charge of doing laundry, yes, I can.