My twelve year old, First Class Rank Boy Scout son is at the National Jamboree this week. This is a big deal for him and us, maybe even a turning point.
Preparation for the Jamboree began ten months ago. Boys from across the Council's area were organized into special Troops just for the Jamboree. In addition to all his regular Boy Scout activities he now had to attend special Jamboree Troop meetings on weeknights to get to know new Scouts and new volunteer leaders. He has two friends in his Jambo Troop. Preparations began last year. As time went on the number and length of the meetings increased. It peaked in May when Troop meetings were four hours long on a school night and he had a Saturday and Sunday meeting of five to six hours each building a decorated gateway for their camp. This has been a lot of work.
There are a lot of rules about what to bring to Jamboree and the week before he went I was still scrambling to buy stuff. The height of craziness was about the Boy Scout uniform socks. New, different colored socks were issued in late 2009 or early 2010. I had a feeling these would be scarce when it came down to the wire so in March I bought a half dozen pairs. I didn't know the new, unsold socks would get pulled off the shelves due to some manufacturing problems such as rubber in the socks (made in China) caused some people to break out in an allergic rash. They did not let us return the purchased, used socks. My son had begun to wear his to the Troop meetings as per the rules. After two or three washings they had shrunk up (abnormally) to the point where they no longer fit him. Now there were no socks to be found. Unfortunately the last minute shoppers were left scrambling like crazy to find socks. Finally the new-new socks were in stock and many had to buy them via the Internet. We tried that but the shipping was going to be $28 and I put my foot down and refused. (We have already sunk approximately $2300 into this endeavor.) Before the trip I sat and stretched the socks out as best I could and told my son to just wear them at the required Class A uniform dinner then take them off right afterwards if that’s all he can stand of the too-tight socks.
So last Friday my alarm went off at 4:30 in the morning and at my son's request I made him a big, delicious, hot breakfast to send him off. Sixteen boys from our home Troop are attending the Jamboree and over 400 Scouts from this Council are there, making ours the second largest contingent second only to an entire state (someone said it was New Mexico and someone else said it was Nevada, I don't know which is correct). We gathered at a state park on Long Island Sound for our departure ceremony.
This trip is the longest time my son has been away from me or his father. This is the farthest he's been away from us too. We are unlike other families in our area who send their kids to a few weeks of sleep-away summer camp at age seven or eight. This trip is twelve days long. My biggest concern was that he'd get homesick or really tired out due to the heat and humidity (temperatures are often 105 with a heat index of 120 degrees). It's a lot of activity and stimulation. My son needs some down time to recharge, especially at the end of the day. When my son is around too many annoying people or in hard physical conditions he needs some space to regroup. If he does not get good sleep the next day can be really hard for him, putting him on edge and 'testy' or feeling just 'off' enough that something small can set him off into either a rage of anger or getting weepy, depending on the nature of the thing. I worry about those things. However he soon turns thirteen years old and I've been working with him on how he can control his reactions and calm himself down, or remove himself from a situation and keep calm before he snaps. I hope he puts these into practice this week.
A few days before the trip began I woke up at four in the morning and saw a light on. My son had never gone to sleep! He said he was so nervous he couldn't sleep and wound up watching TV, watching You Tube videos, reading a book and playing with LEGOs. The other nights he slept, thank goodness. The night before he left he was nervous about going.
The morning that we sent him off he was keeping his distance from me and my husband. Instead of hanging out with us before boarding the bus he practically ran on. I somehow squeaked out a couple of photos of him and one of the two of us and one of him and my husband. He ran on the bus and didn't come off as instructed. I made him get off to actually say goodbye to us and give me a hug (as the Scoutmaster had directed them to do too). He hugged me really quickly and ran on. (This was not out of embarrassment as other Scouts were being affectionate with their mothers and some were crying.)
My son had asked my husband if he thought I'd cry. I bet he was worried that if he saw me cry he'd also cry and get upset. I therefore forced myself to keep a dry eye until the bus pulled out of the parking lot. It was hard for me to do and to achieve it I had to stand alone and stay away from some of my friends who were bawling their eyes out.
I am sure my son is having a great time down there. I don't actually know as he has not phoned us. He has a phone card and can use a pay phone to make calls. I figured he’d miss us and be calling here all the time but here it is, day six of the trip and we’ve not heard a peep. Cell phones and all other methods of communication are banned (i.e. the Internet). We have received only one update from the Troop which was received on day two saying they arrived on day one without problems.
I am happy to see the Boy Scouts in the media often (or at least on FoxNews). This is also the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Boy Scouting so that is the main talking point in the media stories. I sometimes listen to the QBSA radio station via the Internet; it has Scouts as the DJs. They give updates and information about Jambo in between the songs. The BSA Jamboree site has photos on Flickr that the public can view so I’ve been glancing at those.
I have a feeling this is a turning point for my son. This is a rite of passage for him. It’s a big thing for him to be gone for so long and to also be so far away and to a new place (we have never been to Virginia). It is something that I think will be a hallmark of his growing up and maturing. Just a few days after his return he turns thirteen and becomes a teenager. This year of being twelve has had some changes both emotionally and physically, and he is on the path to leaving childhood behind and becoming a young man. I just can't believe that my first baby is almost a man. On the one hand time has gone so fast but on the other, it feels like it was so long ago it was another lifetime of mine, that I was a different person altogether before motherhood.
I'll share how this all turns out. Let's hope our story does not include homesickness and a special trip going to Virginia to bring our son home!
(I'd hoped to share photos but computer problems prevent this, I'm so disappointed about that!)