I had butterflies in my stomach when my friend invited me to a one night camp, a proper camp in a tent along with several other families with special needs kids, most of them on the autism spectrum. I had never camped ever in my life in a tent and here I am in my thirties already, what a shame I thought.
She needed a response soon to book a place and many of the invited members already accepted the challenge. I discussed it with my husband and although he was very excited, he said, what about Aarwin? Will he able to manage a night stay in a tent? I said, well, we won't know until the next morning. He was quiet and said yeah let's do it!
The weather took a U-turn on the day of the camp and by the time it was 3.30pm, the time we had to leave home, it was thundering, lightening, pouring cats and dogs, we even got an alert SMS saying most areas are flooded in Bangalore. We kept thinking about how the night will be in the camp and how things will unfold but at one point we decided not to think of it anymore as we cannot control nature and considering it was a few kilometers from home, we can easily get back if all goes south. So we took off in my neighbor's car, who was also coming for the camp with her son. The ride was wet wet wetter and when we reached it was so cloudy and dark, it was scary. Most families arrived at the site which was Active Shadows farm on Sarjapur Road, Bangalore. The camping was organised in collaboration with Advent 360 an eco events company which is a recent startup in Bangalore.
We were greeted with smiles and hot tea, along with piping hot urad dal bhajjis, yumm! The tents were all taken under a big shed so we no longer had to camp directly in the marshy land, we were still able to experience the nature and surroundings up close and personal. There were hens, roosters, ducks, rabbits, turkeys, a donkey and male goat for the kids to see and play with! There were huge swings hanging from the tall trees and the grass with the sound of the crickets made it all so authentic and real. Aarwin and his dad immersed themselves in mud, water and marsh, and had fun until it was pitch dark.
There was the liveliness of children clubbed with the wilderness of nature, giggles, laughs and chatters of parents filled the air. We all got together for a group discussion on some very important elements of child development, followed by a beautiful bonfire and delicious yet simple dinner. Post dinner, adults sat around talking about everything under the sun and moon, kids played around and we left them free till they wanted to sleep on their own! We took to the tent at midnight and in a few minutes Aarwin went to sleep, he was so tired he barely thought of his pillow and blanket or any other comfort. Fitting the three of us in the tent was easy but it took quite some time to get a shuteye. It was such a wonderful experience, sleeping tight as a family, close to each other and making do with what was available. We rolled up our jackets to make pillows and tried to breathe in as much oxygen as we could from the cold air. When the lights went off, and everyone took off to their dreams under the starry sky, it became so quiet, we could hear each other breathe.
The night was a once in a lifetime experience for the three of us and many of co-campers, wonderful! We all woke up to the rooster's call and how long ago did we ever do that?? Kids were so comfortable by then that most of them stayed sleeping until 8 am by which breakfast was being served. After a hot cup of tea and tasty south indian breakfast items, it was time to bid adieu. of course not without taking a zillions pictures of nature and ourselves. What a well crafted experience that was.
The main reason for me to pen this experience down is to share that we as parents of special needs children are drowned in apprehensions, tensions, stresses and predicaments of how and what our kids will react to different situations. Sometimes these hesitations cost our children the real life opportunities that they deserve to experience with their own perception and view. Our perception and expectation of a perfect outing is entirely and totally different from the perception and expectation of a child. In fact the child may not even leave home with expectations, they have to leave with the resilience needed to deal with what comes their way. As parents we get so cautious at times, especially because society makes us feel so responsible for our 'different' kids, that we forget what as a child our child deserves. The needs are anything but special. This camp made a few things very clear in our heads -
Do not assume the child to be incapable of handling new situations
Do not be bogged down by crying, tantrums and difficulties faced by your child.
Do not fill your mind with predictions of what will happen next
Do not close your mind to what could happen, good things will happen
Do not project your fears and bias on to the child
Do not think that your genes completely dominate what your child may like or dislike
Do not project your inconveniences on to the child, for the child it may not even matter
Do not deprive them of the chances that every child should get
Do not be embarrassed or proud, both are extreme, be in between.
I wish you all the best in everything that you all experience in this life, have a happy life always. Thank you for reading.