Last night I had a minor panic attack. Alright, it wasn’t really a panic attack, not in the way that some people get them. I did not hyperventilate or get shaky. But I did realize that Cub Scout Pack meeting is coming this Wednesday. Pack meeting isn’t usually a big deal, but this one has a deadline. It is the Pack Meeting after Link’s 9th birthday. If he didn’t finish all his requirements for his wolf badge before this pack meeting, then he would officially be too old to ever get his wolf badge. I did not want that measurable failure looming in his brain for the rest of his childhood. What really bugs me is that I had the exact same panic moment the week before his birthday. Then I was told I had until the pack meeting after his birthday. I resolved to help him finish everything up with time to spare. Ha! I had the panic moment last week too when I realized that September was almost gone. I re-resolved to help Link get it all done. Again with the Ha! So today I cornered Link and we sat down to finish up the few last requirements.
It might look like I’m doing a good thing for my son by frantically rearranging my life to make sure that he doesn’t have to live with a measurable failure, but the truth is I cheated him. The point of cub scout requirements is not to fulfill the assignments and earn a badge. The real point is to provide hours of structured parental attention for the boy. Scrambling to tick off requirements is not at all comparable to taking a requirement and turning it into an enjoyable bonding experience. I’ve had a year to gradually work through all of these things. I wasted that year. I cheated my son out of hours of individual time that he desperately needs. Link is quiet and mellow. He does not get as much attention as his noisier siblings because he isn’t jumping up and down in front of my face. He needs the attention as much or more than they do, but he doesn’t get it. Cub scouts done right, could have provided that for him, but I dropped the ball. I’m out of time. Now all I can do is scramble to help him get his wolf badge and resolve to do better on the bear badge.
BUT today I did do one requirement right. He needed to play catch with someone for a requirement. We stood outside in the sunshine. Breezes wafted about pleasantly. Link threw wild throws at me which I tried to catch. I tossed the ball at him and he tried to catch. Link explained to me all the different ways he has been taught to throw a ball. Then he told about school today. He even went into detail about a multiplication story that his teacher told to them. Then he asked about my day and what I did while he was in school. Link was completely happy. He had my attention and was getting to play a fun game. I looked at his happy face and realized that my irritation at having to retrieve wild throws and my boredom with playing catch are a price I am willing to pay if it connects me to my son. He spends so much time living in worlds inside his own head. That is not a bad thing, I have worlds of my own, but I need to teach him enough that he is not afraid of the real world. He needs to be able to talk and relate and understand. I need to be able to understand him. He may think we are catching a ball, but I know we are catching a moment. During that moment his mind is alert and open for me to talk about things that may be difficult. During that moment he is really here rather than somewhere else. During that moment I can learn more about what he thinks. During that moment I can tell him what I think and why. I think I need to make space in our lives for more catching moments.