When I told a friend that I was going to Cub Scout camp this weekend she looked at me like I had three heads. "And you're looking forward to this?!" she sputtered as coffee shot out her nose. Yup, I was. Now that I'm back I can truthfully say that I'm glad I went and I'm looking forward to our next camp next month.
I was one of three leaders who took twelve kids and one young Leader in Training to Dorchester International Cub Camp this weekend. Jonas was one of the 12 and ours was one of 62 groups, made up of about 700 youth, who slept in tents and used port-potties, on a September weekend that started with torrential rains on Friday. It was great.
There were a couple dozen events for the youth to experience on Saturday, including leatherwork, rope making, zip-lining, rappelling and a huge army-type obstacle course. We also had hot chocolate, marshmallows and campfire songs at night. The best part for me though, and I suspect all of the kids involved, was a HUGE, impromptu, completely kid-led, light saber battle during their freeplay time. (The theme for the weekend was Star Wars.) There must have been at least 70 kids battling on either the "Foam" or "Plastic" teams, playing a game that seemed to be a hybrid of light saber fighting and freeze tag. (Our Pack was on the Plastic team because they had plastic light sabers.) They must have played for an hour and it was all smiles. Nobody was injured, no feelings were hurt and everyone came away feeling like a winner. Although a few of us old folks watched, no adult intervention was needed. It was very cool.
That sort of thing is one of the reasons I love being a Scout Leader. It's so rewarding. Helping to guide a group of youth, even when I'm just observing, is pretty amazing stuff. I met most of our Cubs a couple of years ago and to see them grow and develop is incredible.Watching them create an event like that out of their collective imaginations, and be able to manage themselves so smoothly was something I'll never forget.
Being a Scout Leader can be pure pleasure, like watching that battle or teaching them a new skill, but it's not all easy peasy though. Discipline is tough. At this age, they're still learning self-regulation. Our job is to help instill a sense of responsibility in them, to teach them about respecting themselves and others, and to encourage them to do for themselves. We also have to provide clear boundaries and rules for them. The consequences get a little steeper as they get older but they don't always think or care about them. It's a little like being a parent.
Actually, separating the leader in me from the mom in me is my toughest challenge. It can be heart-achingly difficult sometimes. We have a few youth in our group, Jonas included, who demand extra patience and understanding. In fact, they all have their moments. There's a fine line between allowing kids to be kids and learn from each other, and throwing them to the wolves. Group camping is one those life experiences that teaches us all a little more about ourselves and each other, and I wouldn't have missed it for the world.
If I had of, I would have also missed the flip side of one of those painful struggles I just mentioned. As I tried to restrain myself from being overprotective and intervening prematurely, one of the girls tried to comfort one of the boys when he was struggling. I smiled when she put her arm around him, and had to try not to laugh when she told him to "close your eyes and imagine you are wearing your favorite pink dress and playing princesses with your best friend." Kids. They're incredible!