Monday, June 2, 2014

The good, the bad and those villainous mosquitoes

There was a quiet moment near the end of the Cub Scout campout Sunday morning — specifically a pause during the interfaith service set aside for silent prayer (“Take this time to be reverent in your own manner,” per the handout a Boy Scout prepared in search of some merit badge of his own) — when my 6-year-old pierced the quiet with his own plea to the almighty: “I wish mosquitoes never existed!”

Though only I heard his petition, it’s safe to say everyone gathered would have agreed. It was an absolutely brutal weekend in terms of the insect population. It was sufficiently warm in the hot sun, downright pleasant in a shady spot with a gentle breeze and no threat of precipitation like the downpour that sent more than a few families scurrying to their cars after dinner instead of braving the elements. But those bugs were just about unbearable.

Teaming up on a water rocket.
Before my future Tiger Scout weighed in, I’d tried to make my own moment of reverence an appreciation for the opportunity, insects notwithstanding, to enjoy some dad-and-lads time with the Tiger and his big brother, a veteran Webelo.

These excursions aren’t always the easiest. As a family, we thrive on predictability. We don’t adhere to rigid schedules, but generally if we set forth a loose agenda for the day there is a concerted effort among parents and children to hit the high points. Also we, as parents, are in control and therefore empowered to call our own audibles in full understanding of the potential consequences.

The Pack Campout is, on paper, highly regimented, with some items broken down to the quarter hour. But in practice, the structure tends to be abdicated, exacerbated by the unpredictability of the outdoors and the tall task of herding a bunch of grade-school boys who would be just as happy throwing rocks in the fishing pond for 90 minutes. (Indoor events, such as the Pinewood Derby, tend to be a little easier to manage. Also there are real bathrooms.) And I’m not in control of anything, barely even my own kids when each wants to head his own direction — not to mention worrying about how things are going on the homefront where my wife is wrangling the younger two.

As such, the weekend ultimately becomes a bit of a roller coaster, trying to manage expectations, get the most out of the fun parts and mitigate the inevitable minor frustrations.

Those fun parts, of course, were the backbone of my silent prayer of gratitude. When there was joy, it was unrestrained and contagious — the kind of high that keeps us coming back for more. The other times I try to see as opportunities, the chance to model for my kids the way an adult should act and help them learn to get along with the things they can’t control. I don’t always succeed, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the opportunity to do my best for my boys.

Our brief service ended with a group prayer. Modified for just a dad and his kids, I think it’s practically perfect:

A prayer for June 2:

Lord, thank you for the opportunity to be part of your creation. Give us the strength to endure, the wisdom to enjoy each moment and the courage to push ourselves farther than we ever have before. Bless our family as we journey through life. Amen.

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