Sometimes they can surprise us, these kids of ours. We spend years with them, watching them grow, helping them learn to be an adult. We think we know them inside and out. Then, we take a step back and send them off without us, and they come back, looking bigger and more like the adult that they will be in a few years.
About 2 weeks ago, I sent my oldest son on his first big camping trip. He’s been away from home a few times when he was younger. He struggled a little with being away from his family then. I worried that he would struggle now. Only 2 weeks before the camping trip, he was telling me he had a premonition that something bad would happen on the trip, usually a sign that my son is having second thoughts. I teased him about it, saying “What’s the worst that could happen?” Apparently a bad thunderstorm the morning of the last day was the worst that could happen.
My son spent the week with about 60 other teenagers and a number of adults participating in the Boy Scout’s National Youth Leadership Training program. A six-day course, the program is the current version of the Boy Scout’s ongoing leadership training initiative. The NYLT program teaches Boy Scouts and Venturers how to be a leader, what to do as a leader, and what they must know as a leader through hands-on learning and discussions. Even a quiet teen like my son can come away equipped with skills and tools for managing high school, college, and beyond.
When my son went from a small Catholic school class of about 30 kids to a large high school made up of approximately 400 students in total, he struggled a bit with the social side for the first half of the year. Though he’s confident about himself, as a quiet, introspective teen, he struggled with being surrounded by lots of people and noise all day long. It also took him quite a few months to make friends. I worried a little that being on the camping trip without knowing many people might be a bit tough for him. While we were dropping my son off, I saw another slightly younger teen upset about being on his own without knowing anyone.
Six days went by without a phone call. With the 4 young ones, we drove up to Camp Delmont Friday night and waited by the lit bonfire for the teens to assemble for the final program. Led by a teen from my son’s own crew, the assembled teens and adults reviewed the Scout promise and closed out the week. My son looked tired and triumphant.
Afterwards we walked over to an outdoor meeting space and watched a Power Point Presentation showing the activities of the past week. Amidst the cheering and chanting (Announcements, announcements), I caught my son’s eye, and he smiled again at me. He was happy and comfortable.
Since my son is not one to strive for awards and recognition, I was happy when he voluntarily decided to attend leadership training. As I wrote in my post on the Lunch Break Blog about sending my son to leadership training, my hope is he’ll be “the man valued by others for his honesty, his word, his love for others, and his actions.”