So, despite a last minute contract discussion turning sour on Friday night (the MD of the company in question is going to get such an earful this morning) I managed to get me and my boys packed and to the campground. Imagine this if you will, about 15 dads and about 25 boys under the age of 11. Mayhem, pure, delightful, energetic mayhem. I finally managed to get the boys bedded down in the tent around 10:30, way way way past their normal bedtime.
We couldn’t have asked for better weather. Bright and sunny, perfect for doing manly things. We did team building games, let the boys get us lost with compasses and maps, raced each other madly about on bikes and go carts, let the boys trash the dads in a game of water polo (of course we let them win…), larked about on a rope course and generally behaved like a pack of fools. Food was simple, carnivorous and charred on a BBQ. The only aberration was a break with beer to allow the gang to huddle around a telly and watch the England match.
Here’s the thing. There are times when I cringe at the white middle class nature of my boy’s school. Yet… this weekend was a breath of fresh air. I’m not just talking about letting a bunch of boys get a bit wild and a bit dangerous. Though that is something I feel strongly about. I think the Dangerous Book for Boys is a bible to manhood in our modern times. Boys need to see their wild side, understand it, work with it, and form their personality around it. They need to see nature, live a bit outside and just be boys. That’s not something that happens much these days.
That’s a sub point, what really struck me was everyone’s behaviour. Let me start with the boys. There were a lot of please and thank you’s, everyone waiting for their turn at the activities, rules where followed and if broken penance was taken and appologies made. The older ones looked out for the younger ones, and though they all played hard, they played with each other. Don’t get me wrong, there was a lot of competition and a few dust ups, but these where boys who in my eyes where going to be good men.
Then the men. I didn’t do a detailed point by point survey, but you talk over a beer, or over the BBQ and you pick things up. There where no divorces in this group. No fathers having a solitary weekend with their sons. As best as I could determine this was a group of hard working men in long term relationships raising their family as best they could. I’m not making them out as angels, but there was a firm foundation of morals.
Now, this was a self selected group. The school, by its nature, attracts that sort of family. Yet it isn’t a solitary bastion in the wilderness. Such men are not unusual (nor the enclave of the white middle class, you find such men in every race and social strata), and the boys are proof that its not just nature, nurture matters in raising kids to be good.
For me it raising such questions about our society. This used to be the norm, where have we gone wrong such that “happy slapping” becomes popular, or that we actually have to legislate knife control? I know the golden times of yesteryear often weren’t, but among parts of our society, we do seem to have lost the way. A weekend like we just have shows me that all is far from lost, but it also emphasises the difficulties we as a society must face up to.
I’m not positing answers today, but the questions remain.