When psychologists and all sorts of other mental and physical health experts (who usually have a swag of impressive letters after their names) say that scouting develops resilience, they’re usually talking about the kids.
However, last weekend just goes to prove that scouting also stretches the parents well beyond their comfort zones into unexplored territories of fear. That’s apparently what it means to build resilience…you feel the fear but somehow manage to slay the beast and bury it somewhere in your backyard.
You see, last Saturday my husband and the kids went flying with the cubs while I stayed home.
Now, I’m not talking about “flying” as in running very fast or leaping off the roof of the scout hall doing some kind of Superman manoeuvres. They’re the sort of antics reserved for Detol commercials and such like!
No! Instead, Geoff and the kids went up in the sky in a real, live airplane. An airplane which I have since code named: “the Mosquito”. I don’t know what I was expecting in the way of aircraft but it was definitely something approaching half the size of a commercial jumbo jet with some kind of full-body airbag or parachute attached. After all, isn’t the Scout motto: “Be prepared”?!!
Unfortunately, I was unable to go flying with them myself. Rather than being a case of scaredy-cat-itis, I have hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain) so I have a shunt in my head which I understand doesn’t really like changes in pressure. We didn’t have much notice about the trip and seats were limited so I didn’t have time to check the ins and outs of it all. Rather, I simply waved the family off before sunrise and returned to the comfort of my electric blanket and feather doona and had a big sleep-in instead. It is the middle of winter in Australia and we are experiencing freezing, Antarctic conditions, which means the temperature is anything below 18®C. We Aussies can cope with the roasting summer heat but we shrivel up and almost die, as I said, when it is “cold”. So at this time of year, we’re all happily hibernating underneath our doonas and the invading hoards can completely overrun the place. We wouldn’t even notice they were here unless they turned off the heater or our electronic devices.
Anyway, while the rest of the family was out flying, I did the next best thing. I was reading about, thinking about and even inhaling the joys of flight while I was writing in my journal. Quite a few years ago, we had been to a wonderful exhibition where scientists had built models from Leonardo Da Vinci’s drawings and we gained a real appreciation of his absolute obsession with flying.
I contemplated Da Vinci’s love of flight: “Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been, and there you long to return”.
Of course, I pictured the kids arriving home with their necks permanently craned up towards at the sky.
Then I jumped online and thought I’d check out the Scout Flying Centre and see what type of plane they were flying in.
That was where my heart fell out of the sky and came well and truly crashing down to earth.
It wasn’t a plane. It was a mosquito!
The plane was miniscule Cessna C172…a 4 seater with only one engine.
One engine meant there wasn’t a Plan B.
Moreover, with a plane that small, there was no room for the kind of airbag or full-plane parachute I was considering, although I guess the plane was small enough to somehow break its landing in a tree…
Such is the power of positive thinking!
Yet, as much as I was a bit rattled, I was the one encouraging the rest of the family to go. I wanted them to carpe diem seize the day and you can’t do that from the safety of your couch or by wrapping everyone up in so much bubble wrap that they can’ t even move. This might be a different application of the saying but “if you love someone, set them free”. As much as you need to protect your children, you also need to give them the space and encouragement to grow up and stretch their own wings!! In other words, they need to become independent and actually grow up!
At the same time, a part of me did wonder whether they really had to go flying in such a small aircraft to experience the whole carpe diem thing, especially in light of recent devastating aviation catastropies?!!
Apparently, the answer was a resounding: “yes!”.
Of course, they didn’t ring me to let me know they had all touched down safely and there were no photos beamed through to my phone so I could be a part of the experience. However, I did call them. The first time, they hadn’t gone up yet and the second time they were on their way home on the bus already. Phew!
Thankfully, the first phone call informed me that Geoff and the kids weren’t going to be on the same flight. Geoff and Jonathon were going up together and Miss was going up with a buddy. That was a bit of a relief but I was still looking forward to that phone call to say they were all safely back on terra firma and on their way home.
Apparently, the plane took off from Camden and they went on about a 20 minute flight out to Warragamba Dam out in the foothills of the Blue Mountains. Geoff and Mister went together while Miss went with another girl and her Dad. Their plane was called “CFI” which in airplane talk becomes “Charlie Foxtrot India”. Aparently, Geoff kept getting in trouble for referring to it by its initials only. Geoff told me the boys were full of enthusiasm and it was a case of “Look! Look! Look!” They were so excited! Mister, who is 10, commented on how the view reminded him of looking at a model train layout, which also has an aerial perspective. Miss, who is 8, said they had gone to the Blue Mountains and it looked like “pillow land”. She was amazed at how quickly they managed to get there. It took them 15 minutes, whereas it takes a couple of hours’ drive from home. I should point out that the kids haven’t been on a plane since they were too young to remember so this is their first memory of flying.
In addition to these sightings, I also heard about a reported sighting of the Loch Ness Monster in Warragamba Dam, which holds Sydney’s water supply (so you could say it is a rather thirsty sort of beast!) This could, of course, explain the frequent water shortages…
While you could dismiss this sighting as childish imagination, Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s enigmatic classic: The Little Prince reminds us that children have a different perspective on things and who are we to say who is right and who is wrong? I guess he is the “I” in the story, who talks about how he drew a picture of a boa constrictor swallowing an elephant as a child, which adults dismissed as a hat. When he explained his drawing, the adults told him not to waste his time with such nonsense:
“The grown-ups’ response, this time, was to advise me to lay aside my drawings of boa constrictors, whether from the inside or the outside, and devote myself instead to geography, history, arithmetic and grammar. That is why, at the age of six, I gave up what might have been a magnificent career as a painter. I had been disheartened by the failure of my Drawing Number One and by my Drawing Number Two. Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things”.
St Exupery strongly believed in the power of the imagination to achieve greatness:
“A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing with in him the image of a cathedral”
Michelangelo had a similar vision. Talking about his famous the statue of David, he remarked:
“I saw an angel in the marble and I carved until I set him free.”
That doesn’t mean that I’m suggesting or even purporting that Nessy has gone and packed her bags and somehow relocated to warmer pastures!
I’m just saying that we have to be gentle with a child’s vision and all that they may or might not see and carefully nurture their dreams and visions. Given this little bit of faith, you never know how far they’ll grow! We don’t need to stamp all over them just because we’re “right”.
By the time the flight crew arrived home, they were tired and cranky. Their necks weren’t craning permanently to the sky longing to return. After such an early pre-dawn start, there was only one place for this flight crew to go…bed!
 de Saint-Exupery, Antoine; The Little Prince, New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1971 p 2.