We wind down a dusty back road, into a gravel parking lot, and step out into the searing blanket of 95 degree heat. Mr. Wonderful balances a mega platter of potatoes and I gather my purse, lock the car and wonder, yet again, how it is they seem to move the parking lot further and further away from the pavilion every year.
I shade my eyes, squint into the sun, and see before me a handsome young man who has come to assist. I love that about the Boy Scouts of America. There is always some fine, chivalrous young male working on earning a badge or helping an old lady cross the street, just ready to lend a hand.
This boy coming toward us is tall, muscular and in a deep, almost gravely voice, says “I’ll take that.” As he comes closer I blink. Then blink again. This strapping young man of the grown-up voice and chivalrous ways is not just any young man: he’s my son.
It is not lost on me that in choosing Scout camp we essentially pay good money to send comfortable, middle-class children into the primitive woods to emulate homelessness for a week.
Sleep outdoors, bathe intermittently, and battle the elements? Unplug from modern life and learn to be responsible or yourself and others in a responsible and respectful way? Check.
I have always believed if we are to raise confident and capable adults they need to understand responsibility early — and often. I believe in the power of firewood chopping, animal tending and water carrying. I subscribe to “do overs” and the need to come back and do a job over twice, or thrice, if the quality control is lacking the first time.
Yes it often is easier to do it myself, but I will not be bested by a child who simply “can’t” load a dishwasher or wipe down a bathroom. If you can manage to tackle everyone in your path on a football field, send 376 texts in one afternoon, or beat all the zombies on level five the first hour — I’m confident you can outwit a washing machine.
When preparing the parents for the annual Scout camp, Scout leaders are careful to caution parents not to do too much for our boys. They are to pack, plan and prepare for themselves.
This always leads to derisive eye rolls from those among us who are certain their sons would wander around in a fig leaf if they didn’t oversee the process.
My son does like his video games, sure, and he definitely still carries on like the dishwasher might be plotting to attack him, but just last week he immediately responded with action when he was home alone and realized the back pasture fence was damaged.
Without prodding, he grabbed the necessary tools and worked tirelessly for hours in 90-plus degree heat to repair the fence because it needed fixing. Can you imagine my thinking he couldn’t be trusted to pack his own undies for camp after that?
So what was different about our son after just a week away at camp? So different that his own mother had a double-take upon seeing him? Was he taller? Stronger? Something was different. That something was confidence.
I believe that nothing makes an already strong young person stronger than time away from mom and dad.
It is the joy of each previous generation to insist that the current one is going to heck in a handbasket. As far back as Socrates, elders were insistent that young people were subpar at best.
This column is not a paean to the wonders of our son. I am writing this because my son is not particularly unique. Everything I’ve written here could easily be applied to any one of his friends.
They are all growing into strong, capable young men maturing into leaders who will leap into action to assist. They work hard, they respect their elders, they ride their bikes to church, even when the rest of the family cannot attend.
This, of course, does not make the news. I’m clearly showing my rural bias but it seems that roving bands of farm kids are rarely a serious police problem. “Suspect was last seen wearing Carhartts and work boots” as an APB appears exceedingly rarely.
I’m not claiming that country kids are better than anyone else, but am beginning to wonder if perhaps when it comes to going to heck in a handbasket, they are all just too busy to steer?