There are a lot of things in life that take a lot of preparation and careful planning, but done properly, the results are usually satisfactory.
Preparing and farewelling a teenage boy for a week-long camp in the elements is not one of them.
In fact, I’m pretty confident that in the countless books that have been written about parenting, no one has been brave enough to tackle how to make sure your son has all the necessities needed to survive in the wild, and to ensure even if you provide the necessities, he might actually use them.
On the weekend, we sent our son off on a four-day cadet camp sleeping in the bush.
I will not reveal his name to protect the innocent, but needless to say, we weren’t the only parents who questioned whether there was even any point packing a change of clothes and toiletries.
Judging by the parents’ chat group, it seems we have raised a platoon of dashing young lads who may also be gormless.
To set the scene, the boys are going to be sleeping rough in sleeping bags under a hoochie. The forecast for the week is rain and single-figure temperatures. For mere mortals like us, we would probably stay home and watch Netflix. But for our lads, the leaders of tomorrow and the defenders of the nation, there is no question this is a challenge they are ready for, at least in their minds.
It turns out that these days, teenage boys love rain and love the cold. How else can you explain their aversion to using umbrellas and how uncool it apparently is to wear jumpers? Parents at their wit’s end spoke in the lead-up to the camp of their struggles to convince their sons to pack the warm jumpers that had been issued to them.
More than a few parents lamented that their dearly beloveds were refusing to take the jumpers because they were too scratchy. Others said they were too heavy. A few were brutally honest and said the jumpers were lame.
But on Saturday night, on camp eve, and after their sons had retired to bed, every single parent snuck that scratchy, lame, heavy jumper into the backpack.
The other must-have accessory for the camp was a ground mat. Again, though, the boys knew better. No argument about the difficulties of sleeping in mud and pools of water could convince them that a rubber ground mat would be useful.
Again, every parent, bar one, managed to sneak the ground mat into the packing. The one lad without is going to find out by about 8 pm Sunday that sleeping on the bare ground only happens in the movies.
The boys were dropped off at 0545 hours on Sunday morning, most shivering in just their shirts, blissfully unaware that stuffed in the pack on their back was the answer to their problems. What was unfolding was a kind of staring competition, with each lad waiting to see who would break first.
It also turns out many of the teenage boys were boasting they could go for the entire camp without showering or even going to the toilet! How does one prepare a house for the return of a lad in that condition?
Parents nodded at each knowingly. Teenage boys filled with knowledge gleaned from social media were about to learn that in the real world, a scratchy jumper, a waterproof hoochie, a sensible ground mat and daily ablutions can sometimes make life much more bearable!