Ten years and change ago, if you'd have told me I'd be spending a weekend with thousands of Boy Scouts in Brea Canyon--including one that happened to be my younger son--I do believe I'd have barfed up both lungs in mega-guffaw. This did not suit self or public image at the time.
However, there I was a few weeks back, in a tent city ringed by green and golden hills, all for the purpose of a weekend sort of in nature and all based around the glorious tradition of "rocket launching."
Not quite Robert Goddard-like to be sure (the rockets in question look more like toilet paper cardboard holders, with a plastic nose and a parachute stuffed inside the tiny cylinder.) But mighty exciting to my enigmatic 6-year-old son, who was going to be spending a couple of nights "roughing it" (that is, not safely ensconced in his Echo Park digs).
Not included in this fun fest, which included barbecues, archery, BB guns, rock-climbing and other forms of male bonding, was his older brother, who had less than no interest in a night under the stars.
Odd, as the older of the two has been referred to as my "mini-me," and Pops, when a child, was an avid outdoorsman and hiker, having ascended 40 of 46 "4,000 footers" (peaks over 4,000 feet) in New Hampshire. Pops discovered sex and drugs at 16, and those days ended early--this weekend in the tent would be the first of their kind in 40 years.
As it turns out, it was not to be. Shortly after chow on Friday night and the subsequent sunset, the little fellow started getting very sad and very teary eyed and very homesick, despite EP being but 35 miles up the road.
Neither I nor his scoutmaster could dissuade him from this angst, and I was left with the eternal question posed by the Clash in one of their most famous tunes (do I really have to tell you which one, c'mon?)
I was torn--part of me, the dad part, believed that you make a vow to do something, you do it and to tough it out. I had homesickness issues myself at summer camps (albeit older than 6), but I never split or forced a mama pickup in the middle of the night.
On the other hand, to make him miserable would clearly color his opinion of outdoorsy stuff, and even though the parent/child paradigm prevails, I can't stand making anyone do anything they aren't inclined to do if they don't have to.
So we split. Drove all the way home and then back to Brea the next (rainy, cold, rotten) day to fire off a rocket (that didn't fire initially). We shot BB guns (he didn't hit anything), did a few other activities and, once again, made for home.
I posed the question publicly as to whether I made the right decision and it seems universal that I did--why wreck a fun time and he is only 6, at 11 or so, this separation anxiety issue might be a problem, but for now, no--then again, how would I know this? There's no manual that comes with parenting, no real training, no classes after birth. It's all instinct which means sometimes it stinks, but this time, I do believe I did the right thing--and will hopefully stay steered in that direction!