Re: Homesick - with a sting in the tail !
Michael F. Bowman (mfbowman@CAP.GWU.EDU)
Tue, 9 Aug 1994 23:57:16 -0400
Reading your Posting on the young Scout, whose father was dying of cancer,
I couldn't help feeling touched by what he have been feeling. It sounds
like he may have sensed his father's approaching death, even if he had not
yet come to grips with it consciously. It also sounds like he may have
just then picked up on some of the cues from his parting from his family
that his father's words to him, a special hug, or something of that nature
was the last. And I wonder whether he may already have started the
We know that we want to try and respect the family's wishes here, but this
situation could cause a lot of damage. Had a cousin who was not informed
of her grandfather's passing and funeral, because the family didn't want
her to be upset during college final exams week. The resentment that
followed was long in healing. There's also the danger of transference;
e.g. that the Scout wouldn't want to go camping with the Troop because of
what happened when he was gone before.
I would be inclined to level a bit with his Patrol Leader and tell the PL
that the Scout was in the midst of some tough times with his dad being
pretty sick and that the Scout needed some space and understanding. Tell
him that you'll have a chat with the Scout and afterwards you'd like him
and the other Scouts to not say anything more about the dishwashing and
instead on your cue to involve him the day's planned activities. Remind
the PL, that if the Scout just doesn't want to join in to just respect his
needs and go on about the activities. I might also ask one of the leaders
to keep an eye on the Scout in a casual way and to be there when and if
needed for the next few minutes.
At the same time, one of those flip-phones or mobile rigs would be handy,
because I think I would like to talk a bit more with the family. They
should know that the Scout is not unphased by what is going on and be
given a chance to reconsider. He may well need the support of his family
and they may need to think about giving it.
If they still feel strongly, then the Scout probably could use a strong
shoulder indirectly offered. Maybe this is one of those times when it
would be good to ask the Scout to join you in a bit of whittling at a
bench or log off to the side and start by telling a story or talking about
something to get his attention off the dread subject. Then I might work
back to say that the PL was a bit worried about him and ask how he was
feeling, what he was feeling, and let him talk it out. You may have
to start by helping him identify his feelings; e.g. you're usually
pretty chipper, but you seem like you feel upset or sad. This is one time
where reflective questions or responses are probably best, letting him
lead and decide how to respond to his feelings. Not an easy thing by any
He may want to talk about his fears of his dad's illness or fears that his
dad will die. Listen. Reflect his views back without judgment.
Sometimes this will be all that is needed.
And what if he asks questions -- Is my dad going to be okay? I want to go
home. I'm afraid . . .? We don't know and its probably best to say so.
Maybe answer with a question; e.g., I don't know, but what do you think
your dad would want you to do? Help him realize that his dad is proud of
him and no doubt is comforted to know that his son is out camping,
enjoying learning, etc.
Hopefully, at some point the Scout's spirit will kick in and he'll resolve
to be a part of things sensing that its for the best.
If all else fails, you may be put in the awkward position of excusing
yourself and then working out with the family a way for a family member to
give reassurances or comfort.
I think this quiet reassuring or comforting time is needed, but should not
be overdone. At this point I think I would try to get the Scout back
involved in the program and cue the patrol. He may or may not participate.
Encourage the patrol on and maybe ask the Scout to help you with some
chore or project. You may be in for some listening or just there to give
a sense of stability. And if he declines, give him the space he needs and
My heart goes out to the lad, I hope that in your real-life experience all
turned out as well as it could in the circumstances.
Yours in Scouting, Michael F. Bowman, a/k/a Professor Beaver
Deputy District Commissioner Exploring, GW Dist., NCAC, BSA
Speaking only for myself, but with Scouting Spirit . . .
____ mfbowman@CAP.GWU.EDU ____
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City