Me either, though my daughter thinks it’s the height of hilarity to wee in the shower, announce she has done so at full voice and giggle as ‘it’ runs towards the drain.
What’s not so funny is being 12 years old and going to overnight camp for the first time, while still being a chronic bed wetter.
That would be me, by the way.
In the summer of grade 7, all of my friends were going to Glen Bernard Camp – an all girls camp near Sundridge, Ontario. I begged my mom to let me go with my friends. Age twelve is precisely the age when it feels like everyone has something that you don’t have but that you really, really want. It was pretty expensive for Mom to even consider but after much badgering, pouting and crying, she gave in and off I went for two weeks, that July.
By Day Two, I wanted to come home. Not because I was so desperately home sick but because on Night One, I had peed in my sleeping bag.
I should have known better.
Sleepovers were a nightmare. I was terrified that my friends would discover my secret. I remember once going to a girlfriend’s house who had two twin beds in her room: perfect for sleepovers. Not perfect for hiding an accident the following morning. I lay there for what seemed like hours, waiting for her to fall asleep as I worked the problem out in my head. In the end, I snuck downstairs for a plastic shopping bag, which I put in between two layers of a bath towel, and stuck that in the bed. All I had to do was wake up first in the morning, go to the bathroom and use the towel after showering. That turned out to have been a good plan, in theory. Except the bag made crinkling sounds, despite the towel coverage, so I lay rigid most of the night, afraid to fall asleep and move around in my sleep. My friend never heard a thing and I made it to the bathroom with my wet towel – because I had indeed gone in the night – before she woke up. I remember her parents being surprised that I was so ‘intent’ on taking a shower that I did so with no prompting from them or anything. I don’t know if they ever knew the truth.
Fast forward six months to the week before my departure for camp. My Mom had bought me a sleeping bag liner, with the thought that I could launder it if I had an accident. She drilled it into my head not to have anything to drink after 5 p.m. and to make sure I went to the bathroom at the last moment, at night.
I was a very shy child. The idea of any sort of humiliation had me paralyzed with fear and stress seemed to exacerbate the bed wetting. So what did my 12 year old brain decide was a good idea? Go to sleep over camp! For two weeks! With girls that I knew but who had all been to that camp before and had their own cliques and friends. They knew how things worked. For example, if at the meal table, someone suddenly put their index finger by their nose, everyone else at the table had to do it too and the last one to do it had to clear the table. I had spent two hours worrying about who I was going to sit with at dinner, at our first meal at camp. I didn’t know I needed to worry about these little games: I had never encountered this nose thing and had no idea what they were doing. I had to clear the table most nights because I missed the signal. In fact, as a new person coming in to this established ‘crew’ of girls, I was always just one step behind. What had I been thinking in begging my Mom to let me go?
After the first night, it was clear that the sleeping bag liner was going to be no help at all. I had peed right through it AND my sleeping bag. It was still very early, so I dragged it to the washroom and rinsed it out and lay it on my bunk to dry. Of course, it didn’t dry fully that way, so I slept in a damp bag that night. By then, I had come up with a plan: I would double up my underwear at night and place a plastic bag in a towel again. Noisy or not, it was better than being wet. The old bunk beds made a ton of noise whenever someone moved anyway, so I thought that would mask the sound. And it did. I just had to get really good at getting up super early so that I could get changed and put my underwear in the laundry bag.
Eventually though, the endless bed wetting caught up with me one afternoon, about half way through the session, when we were stuck in our cabin because of a thunderstorm. Another girl was jumping around around on the bunks – I can’t remember why – when she jumped on to mine and slid sideways on the slippery sleeping bag that I had. She got a whiff of it and proclaimed: “EWW! It smells like pee over here!”
I wanted to die. I laughed along with the others, pretending that I had no idea what she was talking about.
“I know!” I said “It’s been like that since we arrived! I think a racoon must have peed in that corner or something.”
She and the others seemed to accept that. Thank god.
The next night was the canoe trip overnight in Algonquin Park. It rained and poured for 7 hours. Our tent and sleeping bags were soaked through and the rest of the group was a miserable bunch of tweens, I can tell you. I was probably the only one who was secretly happy about the rain! It was the first rinse out the bag had gotten since we’d arrived at camp and when I smelled it, it didn’t smell at all like pee. We spent the next day drying out all of our stuff in the sun. That night, it poured again. I didn’t care. It’s a bad situation when you are glad to be soaked through in a rainstorm.
The rest of the camp session is a bit of blur now. Having mastered the finger on the nose thing and made a couple of friends of my own, I was less stressed about things like meals and who would be my partner when we had to pair up for an activity. I didn’t wet the bed for the last three nights of camp. But I was afraid every night that I would. I was afraid that my secret would come to public attention and someone would announce it over the PA and the two other shy girls that I had made friends with would not want to be friends with my anymore. It didn’t happen. No loud speakers. No public proclamations of my disgusting secret. I had gotten away with it, by the skin of my teeth.
But it stayed with me, as you can see. I am forty years old and I remember that camp experience like it happened yesterday. Did it kill me? No. Did it make me stronger? Not really. I am sensitive though to situations where you see a little girl sitting by herself, where no one wants to be around her because she is a little bit different or a lot shy. I notice these things more than ever now that I have my own little girl. So if you parent a child like I was, take hope. It DOES end and if nothing else, it might make your child more empathetic towards others who are a wee bit different.