This is more of a "gee, I've always known this but am now formulating it as words/thoughts" rather than "Oh my, I never knew this" sort of post. And it is this: what's with the 10-year-olds and the need for wilderness training?
I mean, I remember packing various earnest satchels when I was kid, and usually it started with "We're going to need water," which I packed in a non-air-tight container that I put in first, where it proceeded to leak over everything else I put in with it. Then rocks, which I planned on chipping into useful knives (why didn't I take actual knives? Maybe not quite so sharp, I fear). Then dried nuts and berries. Maps. Then, once everything was wet, I would empty it all back out. I could have used a few more of these books.
Chestnut, on the other hand, has been on a tear. I am seeing it all from the outside, and it is…marked.
There's My Side of the Mountain, and Island of the Blue Dolphins, and Hatchet. There's a lot of the whole survivalist things in The Hunger Games, as a matter of fact, and I can even see a faint strain of it in From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (the search for sustenance, the scrounging for coins at night, the surviving in a not-entirely-hospitable environment). It's in The Thief Lord. And it makes me wonder—is this all about the fears of kids this age, the sense that they don't know whether they would be able to survive in the world?
Is this an all-too-obvious thought that everyone but me has already had?
When my kids were much littler, I read some parenting book or other in my glazed-over exhausted state, and it said that by the age of 5, most children should be able to survive if they were stranded in the woods—that somehow 5 is the age of survival.
At the time, all I could think was, "Wow, I've really screwed this raising children thing up, because that is NOT what I'm seeing." But now, as I see Chestnut string her bow and arrow and pack serious looking bags for mysterious journeys, I wonder if this is some interior benchmark we are all worrying over, that in the midst of all the moronic test prep and the hopscotch and the angling for candy, we're all just preparing for some potential apocalypse.
If so, my money is on Chestnut, who has a real flair for engineering, and has been doing enough reading to know how to make moccasins and a pretty impressive array of weaponry.
Also: she's looking for something to read. What are the great survival novels for the enterprising 10-year-old?
UPDATED: I meant to tell you all, if you are somewhat fascinated by the whole idea of a the wild child, an excellent and strange adult book is Train Dreams by Denis Johnson. It was really amazing.