Home Thoughts from Missouri

Oh, to be in Texas
Now that June is there,
And whoever wakes in Texas
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in full green leaf,
While the mocker sings on the mesquite bough
In Texas—now!
(With apologies to Robert Browning)

One concern many parents have as they send their young men off in the company of others to spend a week in the 'wilds' of Missouri is how will their sons be without them. This is a fair question. While we have gotten to know one another in the few months since our new Scout families joined the Troop 451 family, in many ways, we veteran Scouters are still nearly unknown to the newer parents and vice versa.

When else would we send those who are most dear to us so far away with such recent friends? For many of our first year Scouts, this will be among their first experiences so far from home and homesickness is a real possibility, especially but not exclusively, for our first-time campers.

We do not regard a Scout's feelings of homesickness lightly. It is very hard on a young person to be separated from his family, even when he knows it is only for a week. Especially at the age of 11, a week can be an eternity and the separation feels interminable. Missing those we love is a special agony and it seems when a child is far from family, it is missing mom that is foremost in that child's thoughts. As Scouts, our young men can face these uncomfortable feelings in a safe, supportive environment, surrounded by their friends.

Why would we willingly subject our best-beloved offspring to this type of torture? The experienced Scouters of Troop 451 have seen homesickness before and will, doubtless, again before we pass our vital torch to other Scouters. Two things have become clear: 1) no Scout ever perished because of homesickness, bad as it can get in the depths of the moment; and 2) calling home only makes it worse.

It can seem callous and unconscionably heard-hearted to deny a sad Scout a chance to reconnect, electronically, with Mom or Dad but experience teaches that that brief, disembodied contact does not satisfy the craving of a homesick heart and only serves to exacerbate the sense of separation. Moreover, it surely does Mom or Dad no good to be far away from an upset child and be unable to be there to comfort their Scout in person.

Facing this longing for the family and familiar surroundings and dealing with this longing in a reasonable, upright manner is one aspect of maturing; learning to manage the experience is one of the things Scouts accomplish at summer camp. It is also a time when mom and dad begin the long, hard process of acknowledging that they are raising a future adult. Our children spend so long so fully dependent on us that it is no easy thing to watch them grow into independent people.

Yet, grow our children must if they are to become the people we wish them to be. Thankfully, this process is protracted; it does not take place overnight. We have many more years left while our kids will depend on us for so many things. This first summer away at camp is by no means the end of this tortuous journey for parent and child. It is, however, a beginning. It is one small step in the formation of honorable, self-reliant adults. One day we can proudly expect to see them assuming their roles in the World as adults. No matter our wishes, that day is a little closer now and Scouting is but one step in ensuring that the process succeeds.

It is hard knowing that one of our children is upset. It can really hurt to know that we cannot be there even though they want us so badly when a bout of homesickness strikes. It should ameliorate some of our most anxious feelings and concerns to know that our Scouts are with their friends and under the watchful eyes of many caring, dedicated Troop 451 Scouters.

When the new day dawns, sad thoughts of separation will be crowded out by a day full of activities, fellowship, and fun! The deep-blue moments of not long-before will be forgotten in favor of full engagement in the here-and-now.

There is a World of new experiences waiting and our Scouts are eager to meet the challenge.

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