Who doesn’t love a good field trip? Every year in elementary school, toward the end of the school year the grades would venture out into the world by going to the zoo, the state capitol, or in this instance an overnight stay at a coastal campground. It was in the sixth grade year and I was staying in old bunk beds with my two best friends, another boy who was more of an acquaintance in the way relationships can be in a grammar school environment. This would be my first overnight stay without a family member of any kind with me. I didn’t even own a sleeping bag so one was borrowed from my aunt and uncle. It was blue on the outside and yellow within. We left school early in the morning and while taking the long bus ride we sang songs from some of the popular T.V. shows at the time, Cheers, Golden Girls, Facts of Life, and Growing Pains and others. I recall one friend who did not sing along enjoying his Walkman with Eddie Rabbits greatest hits playing in it. When we arrived with went on a hike to up a hill just off of the coastline, documenting things like bobcat scat and paw prints. On the trek back down we came to the shear drop off of what I would imagine to be roughly 40 to 50 feet. The bottom was cluttered with boulders, jagged rocks and many pebbles, I worried to myself as I stood no more than a foot from the edge of how it would feel if a classmate had come from behind me and pushed me forward, I would surely lose my balance and my body would crash awkwardly on the various rocks below. If I felt the nudge I could try to push-off harder, trying to propel myself farther away from the cliff and into deeper water but the depth would still be so shallow I was positive I’d still be killed from the impact and if not, more than likely knocked unconscience or hurt so bad that I could swim and ultimately end up drowning in at the Pacific’s edge. My thoughts caught up to me and wondered”what the hell am I doing there?” I’d always thought I was misunderstood by my classmates of being weak and scared, cowardly I guess. Only I few ventured out to the cliffs edge on that hike and the longest anyone had stayed near it was in fact me. As I turned to walk back I realized most of my class was walking back to the main trail, none watching me as usual, only my assistant principal who was making sure he wouldn’t have to call my parents and report their son was hurt or died because he wanted to prove something to everyone or only one. We took a paddle boat ride into the bay and got to visit a Heron sanctuary.
After dinner in was time to visit the cabins. my three cabin mates would have our principal as our cabin chaperone. I had my bunk to myself and slept on top, across the room was two more bunks one friend picked the top bunk also while the other choose to sleep closer to the floor, the other slept in a single cot near my feet while by my head was where my principal would bed done for the night.
Someone had found a tennis ball and we bounced it back and forth in the dank and stale smelling cabin, more at each other than to each other in the dark until in was lost to the darkness of the night and the laziness of four adolescent boys. Before bed I made it a point to use the restroom a few times leading up to bedtime. The restrooms were about 50 yards away from our cabin and walking in the middle of the night in an unfamiliar place wasn’t worried me. My greatest concern on this trip was hoping that I could stay dry while I slept. I was a bed wetter. Though I had a lot less accidents and this time I still averaged a few a week. I would later discover that I had an underdeveloped bladder during my childhood. The evening was late and that was in my favor, less time for an accident while I would be asleep, plus I had used the restroom right before I went to bed, also, I had little to drink all day too. I got comfortable in my cot, we spoke about silly things 11-year-old boys find funny, our voices churning the stillness of the night air turbulent until we all gave in to our weary bodies and haggard minds.
When I woke up I just painfully quiet, not movement could be heard. Moonlight shown in from the left, I sensed it knew that I would need help, I’d need enough light to see in the dark yet, not so much as to expose my secret.
I shivered for the first time that day. I was lying on my back which was unusual as I hardly ever sleep in that position. Adjusting my eyes to the sleeping bag I could define a difference in the reflection on the satin outer layer in one area the size of a basketball perhaps. Slowly I lowered my hand from my chest to below my waist and discovered what I feared the most, more than any of my secrets that I kept from my school mates. I signed wanting to be alone, away, somewhere else, in another body. By the cool feel of my sweat pants I knew it had been like this for a while. I began to dismount off the top bunk which in hindsight was a bad decision. The creaky cot gave up my position almost instantly but only to my principal who asked sleepily, “what are you doing?” I told him I was going to use the restroom which we were told required the buddy system which I was desperately trying to understandably avoid. To my relief he exclaimed, “Oh go ahead.” I grabbed my extra pair of undies and sweats the I strategically placed on the top of my bag for this very type of incident and made my way to the bathroom where I figured no one would be. To my despair three boys were in the restroom so I pretended to urinate until they all left, then hurriedly washed my body and soiled clothes, walked back to my cabin, place the clothes at the bottom of my bag and slept on the edge of the sleeping bag until it was time for breakfast. I was the first up so I could roll my sleeping bag up without anyone seeing it.
Problem averted somewhat. On the trip to the coast our sleeping bags were stored in the compartments accessible from the outside of the bus, but for some reason on the trip home the bags would go directly under the seats. Great! my bag was about 8 to 10 rows behind me, no name on it so that was good. Warm day, hot bus with no air conditioning, yup, things are going to get a little ripe on our return voyage. Needless to say, I was the last student to retrieve my sleeping bag, and never got any flak from it at school, though my bag was kicked around and unrolled as if a group were kicking it back and forth yelling, “Get that stinking thing away from me!” In any event, I would not have to be dubbed the Piss Boy or Stinky for the rest of the year. I think about the trip and try to compare my two fears of the day and why death from a fall took a distant second to being exposed as someone who wets his bed. Still wondering.
So if you are a parent who has a child suffering with bed wetting, please be understanding and supportive, they do not mean to do it. Also, have them checked by a doctor, It could mean the world to them to see that you care, and it is freeing when someone asks them for a sleep over to not have to have worry.
A Former Bet Wetter