Man in training

Believe it or not, I went camping in a tent for a whole night. 

No hydro, no coffee and with limited use of my mobile phone, I unplugged and got back to nature. Hold your applause. The real hero of this story is my 12-year-old son.

A rugby tournament took us to Collingwood last weekend and we turned it into a mother-son road trip. We’re a one-car family now, so with only room for us two and our gear, the Carpenter stayed home to supervise the teenage daughter’s sleepover, complete with nail polish fumes and a bathroom counter full of lip gloss (I totally came out ahead on this parenting tag-team).

Now, before I even get into this column, allow me to preface it by saying that I am fully aware that girls and boys are equals and that gender stereotypes can be harmful and frankly, false. This isn’t news.

But as the mother of a son who is morphing into a man, it hit me this past weekend that sometimes you have to let your son be the man, or man in training that he is instinctively meant to be.

That means standing back and letting go. In other words, letting my son put up the tent. Hey, it’s only fair since I did all the driving (giggle).

Of course I helped, but instead of telling him what to do, I let him lead the entire process, from layout to pole placement, to hammering the pegs into the bedrock. Here we learned resourcefulness, using a rock for a hammer, and the frustration that Georgian Bay is rocky for a reason and that ultimately, the tent wasn’t going anywhere.

Then he built a campfire and stood back proudly. Men do love their bonfires. And of course, he poked it endlessly with a stick, not because it was necessary but because he felt it was helpful. I said nothing. A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.

The whole experience was fascinating, really. So much like his father, but so much his own person, my son is already a man in training.

I say this because two minutes after we got the tent up, he left the air mattresses flat on the ground to hit the beach with the boys on the team, because apparently he’s already learned that men never finish a job (giggle).

Hmm … wonder where he got that message?

Do you ever have that moment where you look at your own offspring and think; “Wow, this is an amazing human being who, despite a complete disregard for housework and basic personal hygiene, is actually a decent person to be around.”

For me, these moments counter-balance the hours of guilt I’ve accumulated for all the times I was too strict, yelled too much, worked too much, missed the game, or said no before I even thought yes.

Ah, the dichotomy of parenthood: where your efforts to do your best can also quickly do your worst.

My son left his tablet computer at home, so my phone was off except to send photos to his dad. We both unplugged. It was amazing.

Skipping rocks, swimming in frozen water, hot dogs over the fire and breakfast on the beach, air-guitar in the car and rescuing a turtle from the road.

Life uninterrupted. Precious.


Kelly Waterhouse