Today was Jesse’s end-of-the-year field trip. Their particular field trip was a guided rafting trip on the Willamette River. When I first learned about it, I was going to keep him home that day. I was too nervous to send my little boy out on a raft for the first time, even though it was going to be supervised and he was not going to be by himself on the raft. Then Jesse brought it up later and he was really excited about it. I just couldn’t tell him no after seeing how much he wanted to go on this. Well, it’s not like we had to pay for it. Jesse does love the outdoors (unlike us!) and this was a pretty cool thing for him to do for the very first time. I started to realize it was too big of an opportunity for him to pass up. So I said yes, he could go – but only if I went with him! So I volunteered to be a chaperone for the trip.
So today was the day for it. It didn’t start off good, though. I only got about 2 or 3 hours of sleep last night because I was up for most of it coughing up gunk, sneezing my head off and blowing my nose. I also had a burning sensation in my chest. I thought I had a cold so I took DayQuil this morning before I left (in addition to Allegra, for allergies). Unfortunately, I was still miserable for most of the trip, sneezing and dealing with nasal congestion as well as nasal drip. On the way back, I was sneezing my head off for most of the trip! I am beginning to suspect it’s more than a cold because I had raspiness in my chest later in the day as well as developing a fever. (My symptoms just got worse later in the day, despite the medicine!)
Anyway, back to the story. When I took Jesse to school this morning, I went in with him, carrying the gear we had been instructed to bring along (sunscreen, extra change of clothes, sack lunch, water, etc.). Jesse’s teacher did not go on this trip so there was a guest teacher in charge of the class for the day. I introduced myself to her and she handed me a list of the kids I would be responsible for today. There would be four in all, with Jesse among them. Another parent was also going to be in my group so we would both watch each other’s back in addition to supervising the 4 kids (his daughter among them). After we all introduced ourselves to each other, the teacher did a Q&A with the kids about the trip. Then we formed our groups, did any last-minute bathroom runs, got our stuff and left in the 3 buses waiting for us outside.
When we got to the site, the staff at the Recreation place where we were to take off from gathered us into a group and talked about using a life jacket. They also talked about other things but I don’t know what it was. I am glad, however, she physically showed us how to pull someone wearing a life jacket out of the water because I was going to need that info later! Then they played a couple of games, which I declined to participate in, before the rafts were finally ready. We all applied sunscreen then the staff helped most of us put on our life jackets.
I was really nervous about going out on the river in a raft. I’ve only been in a canoe as well as a real boat, but that was years ago in the Girl Scouts. Still, I knew there was no turning back now. First time for everything! Fortunately, there would be a trained staff member on each of the 4 rafts and that eased some of my anxiety.
When we first set off, we didn’t really do anything. I don’t know if anybody was talking or explaining things. Soon, however, we were off in one direction. It was really smooth sailing for a while there. The guide was manning the oars at the head of the raft and each of the adults as well as the kids all had our own paddles. We had to learn to work together to paddle the raft and navigate it along the river. There were a couple of areas of the river that were torrential – one small one and one large one – and those were scary as well as exciting areas to navigate the raft through. (We did not go on any extreme rapids, like they have on TV and in the movies. This was mostly an introduction to rafting.)
We would occasionally greet the other rafters or bump into them. At one point, though, I guess we bumped against a raft too hard because Jesse fell into the river! I freaked out but sprang into action to grab him by the top of his life jacket and pull him in. Unfortunately, my left hand could not get a good grip so the guide helped me to lift him up into the raft. That was really scary but I’m glad nothing serious happened. Thank goodness for the life jackets.
Eventually, we arrived at our destination and climbed out of the rafts to go up a steep walkway and get to a park. The walkway was too steep for me though and I ended up falling. One of the staff helped to lift me up (and in the process suggest I put my foot against a nearby rock to give myself some kind of leverage). Of course I was embarrassed about falling and about needing help to get up but it’s not the first time! I try my best with steep courses but I can’t always get through them okay. (I also had some help back on the way down.) I am just glad I was not hurt too bad, though my left hand is still sore (I used it to block my fall). At the park, we rested for lunch as well as any bathroom breaks. One of the guides played games with the kids. I used this free time to take my phone out of the Ziploc bag I had it in and text hubby and update him on everything. I also let him know that I now knew I did NOT like rafting! Seriously, I wasn’t having much fun. I don’t like the outdoors. I don’t like being out on the water -- it’s dry land all the way for me!! -- and I certainly did not like being outside for so long (given the cold symptoms I’d been having, I couldn’t tell if it was a cold or my allergies but at least the itchy, watery eyes I had been dealing with for so long was GONE was I was out there and that was probably the only thing I liked about the whole trip). Even so, I am glad for the experience, because, hey, at least I TRIED IT! I gave it a shot and, yeah, rafting is not for me. Jesse, however, was having a blast and he loved it and I was glad he was having this experience to see what rafting is like. And Jesse does love the outdoors and I know it’s important to nurture that in him. He’s a true Oregonian!
On our way back to the launch site, some of the kids from the other rafts ended up in the water! I was confused and asked the other parent if they had jumped in or fallen in. He didn’t have an answer. Then I noticed the staff pulling those kids in. I soon realized what was going on: They were teaching us about pulling people into the rafts. Soon the guide in our boat told Jesse to go into the water. I didn’t want him to! When he had fallen in, that had scared me. I didn’t want him back in the water!! I understood perfectly that they were trying to teach the kids how to be safe if they are in the water and what to do and all that, but some instinct within took over. I DID NOT want my son in the river again! (He cannot swim, by the way.) But he listened to the guide encouraging him and went in. I freaked again! I kept calling to him to come back. He ended up drifting AWAY from the raft. AWAY FROM ME!! I called to him and told the guide to please get the raft closer to him. I didn’t want the current to sweep him away! Finally, we got close enough to where I could grab his hand and I pulled him closer. I tried to lift him up by the shoulder covers on his life jacket but, once again, my left hand could NOT grab hold! Once again, I needed help to get him out. (See, this is WHY we usually don’t go out on the water! I don’t have two good hands like everybody else does!) I was VERY upset, frightened and angry over this whole thing. I had really panicked as I watched Jesse float farther away from the raft. I was so ANGRY they had us go through this! I even said to Jesse, “I can’t pull you out of the water! I don’t have two good hands to do that! I didn’t come here to see you drown!” Yes, I know he was wearing a life jacket. Yes, I know the other parent in my group could swim and said he’d go after us if we fell in the water. Yes, I knew we had trained guides with us to save Jesse in case anything happened, but I was NOT thinking logically! I didn’t want him in the water! Despite their attempts to calm me down and offer apologies, I was still steamed. Even Jesse felt bad for disobeying me and apologized. (I gave him a hug and told him I loved him.) Still, I thought in my head: NEVER AGAIN!
Despite being so upset, though, I still helped with the rowing, because I knew that everybody had to work together. Finally, we got back to the launch site, but before we could just up and leave, we all had to help clean up and put everything away. After that, I REALLY wanted to go home! But not yet. Now they were letting kids play on the shore of the river. I was in a really bad mood and didn’t feel like getting into the action so I just walked around on the field while Jesse played. I noticed there were a herd of a variety of birds waddling away from the river and through the field, leaving a wave of discarded feathers behind. I picked out two that I liked and showed them to Jesse. He got 2 that he liked as well then went back to playing.
Then, at last, we all said goodbye, thanked everyone for everything, then boarded the buses to return to the school.
The rafting trip was a very interesting and hopefully educational experience. I am certainly very glad that I went. I only wish that I hadn’t been so sick and miserable during this excursion! The guides had encouraged me to come back sometime. We might do it, IF we are feeling well enough. I do enjoy LOOKING at rivers, lakes, streams, etc. (and fishing in them!), but not actually being out on them. I am glad I experienced what rafting is like, though. And I’m glad Jesse got to experience it, too. He had a great time.