18.8.08

Fathers & Sons—Retreat or Defeat?

I am typing with one hand and two fingers of another. No, nothing is broken—just sore from a 24 hour father-and-son retreat, sponsored by my local congregation www.cpcstl.org. And, from the air conditioning of my office I peck out these insights:

Insight 1: Machines that claim a “full-body workout” weren’t meant to simulate throwing children five feet through the air into a pool.
Yes—and that is why my shoulders feel like an eighty pound weight is hanging on them. There is a big difference between…say, a sixty lb. dumbbell and…well, sixty lbs of pre-pubescent boys. Dumbbells don’t squirm, twist, jump right on top of you, or claw you with finger nails in a desperate attempt to increase pre-launch balance. I was accused of being the youngest father there (clocking in at 35 years). Then again, none of the other fathers was in the pool throwing children.

Insight 2: The way to earn the title “The Jerk” is to be the dad striving the hardest to WIN!
Hey, I’m an INFJ—I would rather let other people win than deal with the emotional vomit that they exude when they lose. Not so my ISFJ son who loves to win. (Granted—Jonah has more sports ability in his pinky than I have in my entire body.) None of the other dads had to listen to their son cry the entire way home last year because they didn’t win a single event. So yes, did I practice for these “father-son Olympics”? Sure I did. A regimented diet of Clif bars, rock-climbing at Ridge Haven, bringing down a 40 foot tree (piece-by-piece) in my own front yard…and a rowing machine. Yea—I caught the ball and tagged out the 7 year old who was first up to bat for the other team. Then again, he leveled me at third base, clawed my back in the pool, and “inadvertently” dripped scalding S’mores on me. (All’s fair in love, war, and Father-Son Retreats). At least I didn't dope up! (A guy has to have limits.)

Insight 3: Earplugs don’t come standard.
Snoring is the most underutilized energy source on the planet. If a presidential candidate could tap that—we’d be able to laugh off Brazil’s biofuel, the Middle East’s oil, and Vladimir Putin’s natural gas. Pillow? Check. Towel? Check. Sheets? Check. Earplugs? Earplugs? Blast it, why didn’t I check? Long nights in the wide unexplored wilderness of Camp Trinity do offer one thing—an opportunity to practice the Hebrew alphabet. Strangely, I kept getting stuck at Lamed.

Insight 4: There are benefits to having grown up in Mississippi.
Honestly, I thought archery would be a great event for the retreat. After all—when compared to the Cannonball Splash, the “Child Press,” and the Football Throw—at least Archery is in the real Olympics. I’m amazed at how few people have never picked up a bow, who don’t know why one feather is a different color, and somehow miss that the word “ARCH” is the first part of Archery for a reason. At least the 53 year old—who frowned on my record time in the father-son relay event—not only know how to shoot but also had his own bows and arrows. Good thing people from West County aren’t dependent upon the ability to shoot in order to survive. If so, Darwin would, sadly, be proved right on one point: the weak don’t survive.

Insight 5: A father who misses the Olympics at the Father-Son Retreat can justifiably be feathered.
Granted—he was tired and I don’t know what all he’s had going on. I’m sure it hasn’t been easy. And when I told his son I’d be the stand-in dad and bench-press him 20 times—I did it with the knowledge that he weighed a full 2.5 times my own son. There should still be a clause—somewhere in the Camp Kiwanas Guide to Retreats, or the Boy Scout’s Survival Guide—that outlines the judgment of “tar and feathering for failure to actively participate.” I guess it is enough to know that the Crackberry’s that were there suffered their own self-induced fate.

Insight 6: Father-Son Retreats are anything but a Retreat
A call to arms—yes. The opportunity to pretend to be younger than you are, sacrifice your quickly aging body for a moment of glory in your son’s eyes—absolutely. Now I know why the women always have a “Lock-In Hobby Night.” The term Hobby excludes—by definition—strenuous, physical, exertion. (And my wife wonders why I’m so tired!). If I ever become and Elder, I am going to vote for the Full-Contact WIC Tea. “Come On, girls. Let’s see some broken China!” “Ouch—a box of Earl Gray to the forehead! That’s got’ta hurt!”

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