Monday, June 3, 2013

Making good on our deal

Deuteronomy 11:13-19 (NIV)

So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today — to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul — then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil. I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied.

Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. Then the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and he will shut up the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the Lord is giving you. Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
The plan was simple: when Jack was ready to leave, we would leave — with no objections from me. The day was Saturday. The event was the annual Cub Scout graduation campout a few miles northwest of our house. The challenge was a particularly foreboding forecast calling for strong thunderstorms at various points of the day and night.

I couldn’t decide which of three outcomes had me more fearful: a soaking wet tent, a soaking wet Jack or the possibility of planning to skip the camping part altogether only to have the storms pass us by. So we talked about it with Jack and agreed on a plan: no tents, but we could stay as late as he wanted and come back early the next morning for breakfast. Happily, he was able to see the logic and signed off on the proposal. He has never been a big fan of getting wet unless it’s completely on his own terms, and his agreement got me off the hook in terms of horsing around trying to sleep outside in a monsoon.

The forecast said it was supposed to be storming when we woke up Saturday — it was calm and beautiful. The forecast said it was supposed to storm heavily between noon and one, when folks were supposed to be pitching tents — it was a bit breezy and slightly overcast, but no precipitation. The forecast said it was supposed to storm again around 6 p.m. — and that, to some relief, is when the skies finally opened.

I would have been a bit more relieved by the rain had it not arrived once I’d figured it wouldn’t and was halfway across the camp from the main shelter. Fortunately the thick tree canopy kept me mostly dry. I got back to the shelter to see nearly every Scout, parent and sibling already under cover.

At the time, we should have been getting on dress uniforms and heading over to the fire bowl for the graduation events, painfully unfunny skits made enjoyable only by the cute earnestness of the performers and some low-grade pyrotechnics that make grade school boys “ooh” and “aah.” Instead, the leaders got all the graduation gear unpacked and proceeded to begin the ceremony.

But Jack was done. He’d decided it was time to leave, even though the campfire was going to be the highlight of his day. The rain let up enough where he felt an umbrella would keep him substantially dry on our trek back to the car, and he knew if we hurried he wouldn’t have to be stuck outside if the rain picked back up or, worse, lighting and thunder got involved.

For a few seconds I hesitated. I was hoping to see a smile on his face as he advanced ranks and accept his new neckerchief. But I remembered the deal: We’d stay as long as he wanted to. Although I made the deal as a way to let him know we could stay out way past dark, past even his abnormal bedtime, he was applying the rules fairly: He wanted out, and I was not going to force him to stay there if it meant breaking our deal.

We got up early the next morning (before 7 a.m.) and headed back to camp — it’s about a 15-minute drive at that time of day. Only Jack could not eat and be satisfied because, unlike last year, there was no hot chocolate, no helpful Boy Scouts cooking pancakes. There were bagels and granola bars and oatmeal. These are not foods Jack likes. He quickly invoked his “whenever I want to leave” clause, and I relented.

So off we went to Golden Corral, where the biggest headache was the ice cream machine spitting out chocolate instead of vanilla and the cotton candy being wet. (Why the full dessert bar is open at 8 a.m. during a breakfast buffet is beyond me.) But he handled it more or less in stride, a skill I’m happy to see him develop. After a slower-than-usual start from Charlie and Max, we actually went on to have a wonderful family Sunday.

All in all, I was proud of the kid. I know the weekend didn’t work out as he planned. He had a ton of fun during his first campout this time last year, so it was disappointing we weren’t able to fully revisit the joy. But in a way, I think he learned more this time than last time by overcoming the adversity. And he and I had a few decent talks over our brief time together, which is always a delight.

Tomorrow I’m going to make a point of thanking him for the weekend, not just his good choices but also for including me in his activity. It won’t be the kind of heavy faith talk referenced in the verses from Deuteronomy, but hopefully it can help us continue building a relationship that includes talking about things I want to discuss and not just the latest Wii game or Nook app.

It’s a great deal of fun to spend time with him when he’s willing to communicate and involve me in the activity of the hour. As my oldest, he’ll always be opening my eyes to new parenting experiences. As such, I need to make sure I’m ever vigilant for the chance to learn something new. He’s always been a great teacher to me. Maybe someday I’ll be able to make him understand just how important that’s been over the years.

A prayer for June 3:

Lord, thank you for a special weekend with my son. It might not have gone according to our initial plans, but we enjoyed our time together anyway. Please help me be open to opportunities for individual connections with each of my children, and also to help us as parents teach them about the importance of being together as a family, in groups or as a whole. We’re blessed with so much, God, I hope I can show my kids just how wonderful life is when your love is at the center. Amen.

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