Herding Cats

Yesterday we spent the morning with our Boy Scout troop, working on a service project for the local National Guard Armory. The project turned out very nicely, and the Guardsmen were very appreciative. They were touched that Boy Scouts would come out and do something to beautify the place they served. I could tell it really meant something to them.

We moved an entire dump truck of rock, to be used as mulch, around the flagpole. We weeded it, put down landscape fabric, put the rock in place, and cleaned up. It was the final 2 hours of a project that began several weeks ago, only D and I were unable to make the first part.

The thing I noticed is that these boys are, as good as they may be, well… lazy. Another dad and I actually shoveled most of the rock, in fact we shoveled about as much rock as all the rest combined. I didn’t mind, except when I saw D leaning on his shovel like a county supervisor. Then I’d encourage him, in a positive way, to join us in the project, we needed his strength over here. He’d oblige me for a while, but then get side tracked. I saw several mock sword fights break out, card board tubing turned into deadly weapons. That’s what boys do! They were everywhere except for where they should have been. I was gritting my teeth. Like trying to herd cats.

And I remembered something from my boyhood. We were fishing, my Dad, Uncle, cousin Bob and me. I was about 12 years old. And I was having trouble, getting my fishing line caught in power lines, in the trees, any where but the water. And my Dad got very upset. I took a serious chewing from him, and was humiliated. Then my uncle stepped in, and said a few simple words that remain with me to this day. “Rich, take it easy on him, give him a break. He’s not 35 years old yet.” My Dad apologized to me, fixed my fishing line, and we had a great time.

I’ve remembered that lesson, and the kindness of my uncle all of these years. And when I get frustrated with boys that don’t listen, get sidetracked into an epic sword fight, or lean on shovels like a county work crew, I hear my uncle. “Give him a break, he’s not 35 years old.” No, he’s a boy, and this world in some ways discourages real maturity, and at the same time expects other forms that are inappropriate for someone his age. He needs to begin to try, to exercise those muscles, but he won’t get it right. Not yet. But he will. One day.

And so I look at my son, and in my frustration have to realize that he’s only 13, having barely mastered the wiping of his own nose, and other parts. And can hardly pee into a toilet bowl. And that in 5 short years he’ll be gone, off into the world. So I don’t want his memories of these years to be punctuated by too many derogatory remarks, but by encouragement, even where he may have temporarily come up short.

Yesterday, after the project, we went and worked out at the YMCA. And as he chilled at home, I took a 22 mile ride, still checking my knee out. It was a good day for us. The girls were gone, dance practice and parties until late late.

This morning, he drove the lawn tractor for me and cut our 2 acres of grass, while I weed-wacked, keeping an eye on him all the while. He has a tendency to go too fast, and I’m afraid he’ll drive my tractor straight into a tree! But he did well. The yard looks great. Not as if I had done it, but then he’s only 13.

And in the words of my uncle, “I’ll give him a break, he’s not 35 years old.” Yet.

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About chuck

Aha! Look what I've created. I... have... made... FIRE!!!
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2 Responses to Herding Cats

  1. Kelly says:

    That’s a good reminder. “He’s not 35.”I have known some 35 year olds that didn’t act 35, to tell you the truth.My 13 year old is a little muddled these days, too.

  2. Jim says:

    Muddled… that’s a good word for it. There are things going on inside of him now, big changes, that are confusing. Love him through it, he’ll love you back for it.

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