Joco Diversions

A taste of Scouting leadership turned teen into Mr. Responsible

Scouts remember Camp Naish namesake

Early Sunday morning, flowers were placed next to the foot of the tombstone for Theodore and Belle Naish at a Edwardsville cemetery in recognition to the Naish family. This month marks the 100th anniversary of Lusitania sinking from a German U-Boa
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Early Sunday morning, flowers were placed next to the foot of the tombstone for Theodore and Belle Naish at a Edwardsville cemetery in recognition to the Naish family. This month marks the 100th anniversary of Lusitania sinking from a German U-Boa

The sun was above the horizon for maybe an hour this morning when the shouting started.

“Get up, get up, get up!”

Doors were banged on, beds were rattled and boys grumbled.

My wife and I have a teenager who really savors the deep sleep that’s powering his sudden growth, so it’s a scene I know well.

This morning’s performance was something else, though, and I couldn’t stop watching.

It wasn’t me banging on those doors. My wife wasn’t the one hollering.

This morning, it was the 13-year-old in the leading role.

See, his friends have voted to put him in charge of their scout troop for six months.

There’s a ceremonial part of the job that calls for the charm of a good emcee and an organizational piece that’ll serve him well if he masters it. Those are things within his power, even if he might have to draw from deeper wells than he knows he has.

That left only the practical aspect of convincing those who elected him leader to, well, follow. Now that I saw Mr. Breakfast at Lunchtime not only wide awake at reville, but actually making sure that all the other kids were up, I wonder if there’s anything he can’t do.

Nine times out of 10, that’s how it goes when you assign a kid to take responsibility for something important. You find out that this person you’ve been treating as a somewhat incompetent dependent has been ready to carry carry a substantial load for some time.

One of the main points of scouting is teaching girls and boys to shoulder important loads and helping them marshal their strength to handle them. That’s a big reason my wife and I are happy to carve out a lot of our time to watch what our kids do with their friends there.

In fact, that’s the beauty of it: The kids are in charge of wrangling themselves on campouts, so once the adults drive them wherever they’ve decided to camp, there’s not a lot for most of us to do other than watch. That, and see if we can manage to cook ourselves better meals than the kids rustle up for themselves.

It’s a substitute for the kind of upbringing my brother and I got from parents who’d spent considerable time growing up on ranches and later set up something close to a ranching life in the suburb where they settled.

A ranch might be the perfect place for a kid to learn to handle his own business from a young age, even just a miniature ranch in a suburb. When you regularly have to dodge an angry rooster to fetch the eggs and then keep the goat from kicking over its milking bucket, you build confidence pretty quickly.

My wife and I needed a different tactic, seeing as I’d get reported to the authorities if I tried to keep goats in my neighborhood — probably by my wife.

So we take the boys to scouts and enjoy watching them figure out how to take care of the day-to-day chores that support whatever fun they want to have.

And enjoyable it is.

A few hours after my son was knocking on everyone’s tent doors, I sat back and watched him work out how to rally two dozen reluctant tweens and teens to clean out restrooms before they could get back to their fun. I should mention that this is a kid who may have been in the running for messiest bedroom before he was finally made to clean it before summer camp.

Sure enough, not long after he handed out assignments and tools, the restrooms were spotless.

I’m a realist. I’m not counting on this change sticking for good when he gets home next week and drops the mantle of responsibility for a while. But it’s comforting to see that he’s learning to handle these load for the day he finally picks up that mantle for good.

Richard Espinoza is a former editor of the Johnson County Neighborhood News. You can reach him at respinozakc@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter at @respinozakc.

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