Parker has always enjoyed Scouting activities, but it was a bit of a struggle to get him through some of the Eagle rank requirements toward the end. The Camping merit badge, in particular, presented problems because we hadn't kept proper track of the number of days and nights he'd been camping. He being our oldest boy, we were not yet used to all the ... well, hoop-jumping required to progress in the Scouting program.
The problem is, generally speaking, that the older boys get the less they like to go camping. Maybe it's because all the trouble and fuss of living without a house finally surpasses the novelty of being free to eat too much candy and not brush your teeth. I don't know. At any rate, several of the young men around Parker's age harbored great animosity toward sleeping on the ground and made a point of being miserable about it.
Not that they didn't have valid reasons to dislike camping. There have been plenty of instances involving illness, injury, lack of sleep, near hypothermia, and general discord. So when time for the annual summer camp rolled around, there was already much going against it. In fact, Parker's friend Tyler (the only non-LDS member of the troop) prophesied that by the end of it, they would all hate each other.
Now, I don't know all the details of what happened during those few days, but I understand it began with the boys so getting on each other's nerves that they made a rule by general consensus: no one would tell another Scout to "shut up" or he would have to do 10 pushups in front of the troop.
One evening, the afore-mentioned Tyler was assigned to start a cook fire for dinner. In one respect, this was the perfect job for him, because he took great joy in using his flint and steel whenever he got the chance. On the other hand, his fire-lighting enthusiasm far surpassed his actual fire-lighting skills. As he fruitlessly struck and struck and struck, the minutes dragged on and on and on.
Then the complaints began, picking up in steam as one boy after another piled on. I later tried to get out of Parker what they were actually saying, but he either can't or won't remember. He just said, "It was really insulting, Mom. And they kept chanting it over and over."
Poor Parker sat there, increasingly distressed. While he acknowledged that Tyler could be a tad irritating (what teenage boy isn't sometimes?), he felt keenly the inappropriateness of all the "good Mormons" picking on the one boy who wasn't—especially since Tyler's parents had long resisted letting their son participate in anything church-related. Parker kept hoping the group would get bored and give it up or otherwise come to their senses, but the taunting escalated.
Finally, Parker snapped. He yelled, "SHUT UP!" The other Scouts were stunned into silence. Since we teach our children to not use this particular formulation (also, "stupid" is the S-word at our house), they had never heard him say anything like that—or at least, quite so forcefully. They turned to see what terrible thing he would do next.
Very calmly, Parker strode to a clear spot in the camp, got on down on the ground, and proceeded to do his 10 pushups.
I would like to report that everything went swimmingly after that, especially since some of the boys apologized. But since the final night's dinner involved tainted meat which made everyone queasy and caused one food-poisoned lad to throw up on Parker's sleeping bag in the middle of the night, I'll have to settle for calling it a "treasured learning experience." At least I know Parker will never forget it.