Were they kidding? There was ice on the water bucket that morning, and they were talking about having my child sleep outside with nothing but a sleeping bag and some pine boughs? My mind immediately conjured up pictures of meandering bugs, wandering bears and cold snakes looking for a warm spot to spend the night.

After a few deep breathes, I managed to stifle my momentary panic and remember that Liam was no longer a little boy, but a teenager with a four-season sleeping bag and capable of coming inside the bus if he was uncomfortable.

That particular frosty morning, we were discussing the last of his requirements for his Boy Scout Wilderness Survival Badge, which is needed to make Eagle Scout. The requirements were that he sleeps outside overnight with nothing but his sleeping bag, with things he might reasonably have in a daypack, and what he could gather from his surroundings to provide shelter.

This particular night, we were in the Santa Fe Wilderness area, which provided Liam (13 years old) with his first real opportunity after months of desert camping to work on this badge. The prospect of sharing his sleeping bag with scorpions and cold coral snakes by camping out in the desert didn't strike my son as a risk worth taking, for which I was eternally grateful, as I don't think my nerves could have handled that and so he waited for a more familiar and friendly forest setting to make his attempt. However, the tradeoff for a forest setting was an elevation of almost 9,000 feet and very cold nights.

Liam spent the entire day unbelievably filthy, building the perfect shelter, but immensely proud of the sound structure he had built. He was able to spend two warm and bug-free nights in the shelter.

Not to be outdone, his younger brothers Elliot (10 years old) and Tucker (8 years old) decided that they, too, needed to build a shelter and spend the night outside. Tucker was unlikely to make it the night outside on his own in a pine bough shelter, but I had become infinitely wiser on this trip, so I kept my mouth shut when he proposed the overnight. My husband Chris and I encouraged, waxed enthusiastically over the final product, which was indeed a proper shelter, and waited with bated breath to see how long he lasted. After stuffed animals, special blankies, flashlights, and hot water bottles were delivered to the shelter, we retreated to the bus to wait. Sure enough, 15 minutes later, he was back in the bus, calmly stating that he just couldn't go to sleep out there. I said OK and tucked him back into his bunk, so proud that he had tried it but secretly relieved that he was back in the bus.

Moments like this, having to choose to let one of my children do something we as parents deem risky or scary has been one of the continuing challenges of this trip. At this point in our trip, we have officially relinquished our, albeit erratic, membership in the Helicopter-Parents Club and have instead adopted a modified old-school approach. No, we haven't ditched our bike helmets and our kids aren't running with scissors, but challenges and appropriate risk are our new motto. In many ways, our children are actually safer and wiser through our acceptance of more (appropriate) risk than they were at the beginning of this trip.