It’s long been a campout tradition of the Scout Troop I’m Scoutmaster for us to wrap up our outings with “Thorns and Roses,” where we all get in a circle and share what we enjoyed (roses) and what wasn’t so great (thorns) during that particular campout.
Our campout last weekend was one we do every year up to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, which is always gorgeous no matter what the weather. This one was particularly beautiful, with ample sunshine and just a quick shower the whole weekend. So for my roses, I shared three different things I thought were great, and I said I had no thorns.
But I did.
It was that there was a Scout who wasn’t there, one who I believe has been at every single campout I’ve taken part in since I joined up as an adult leader in the Troop six years ago. That was when my older son John crossed over from Cub Scouts, and he and I have been extremely active in our outdoor activities ever since. We were joined by my younger son A.J. for all that fun three years ago, and A.J. was there on the campout with me. But John wasn’t.
No, no–there’s nothing wrong with him. Quite the opposite; he chose not to go because he has a job now and was scheduled to work, and he and friends were planning a get-together last Saturday. I’ve made it very clear to him over the years that it’s always his choice whether to attend campouts. And recently I’ve also told him that Scout outings and even Troop meetings aren’t as big a priority for him anymore, as he’s now just days away from achieving his Eagle Scout rank. I’ve certainly encouraged him to continue to be involved, but as with pretty much every Scout, other things rightly start to take precedence as he nears the end of his Scout years when he turns 18 next February, to be followed closely by his high school graduation.
I had a great time with A.J. and the rest of our Scouts and adult leaders last weekend. But it wasn’t without regular bouts of melancholy too, as I realized this is another one of those signs that our time having John in our tight little family circle are fast coming to an end. I used to drive him to school, but with his job and lots of conflicts for transportation to sports, band engagements, and work between him and A.J., we recently invested in a small used car. Now John drives himself to school, and he disappears to work oftentimes without my even realizing it.
I’m very proud of the young man he’s become, and he’s more than earned our trust as he spreads his wings and becomes more and more independent.
But as I’m sure any father who’s had his former fledglings leave the nest knows, you can be happy they’ve gained that independence while also having it be awfully bittersweet to see them pulling away.
So yes, I had a thorn–a pretty big and painful one. I don’t think I could have shared it without getting far more emotional than I was comfortable getting with a big group, or going beyond what was appropriate for such a glorious end to such a glorious campout.
But I sure did miss John.