Sunday, October 04, 2009

The Canoeing Merit Badge Story - "Awww, my life totally sucks."

On Wednesday, we had an interesting Geoff experience. 

When he went to summer camp, he did three merit badges and didn't complete them. On his canoeing badge, he had one requirement left, so we made arrangements to meet with a merit badge counselor (who happens to go to our church) and get this puppy put away. Geoff was stoked, he couldn't wait to go... and we got down to the waterfront and he and Steve got the canoe out and brought it to the water.

The docks and floats were pulled up onto the beach as they were getting ready for the winter. Steve was there before us and had planted the canoe next to one of the floats closest to the water.

Because he hadn't worked with Geoff on the badge to that point he asked him some "refresher" questions about safety, paddling styles, all requirements that Geoff had completed over the summer... but Steve needed to know before headed out to the water with him that Geoff knew his stuff. 

Satisfied, he had Geoff walk to the back of the canoe (remember the canoe is half in the water and half on sand) and instructed him to turn around and sit. Geoff did that. And the second he sat down, the canoe flipped over on its side. 

Geoff, in the water end of the canoe, went into said water. It was kind of like a slow motion train wreck. I saw it happening, and both Steve and I stood there and watched. The water was about thigh deep at this spot, so he was submerged. Soaked. Head to toe. 

He got out and said the above quote about his life sucking. 

Steve said in a very calm and matter of fact way, "that's one way to look at it. It's your choice whether or not you'd like to try it again. It's up to you. We can finish this today, or come back in the spring. Whatever you choose, I'm happy to help you."

Geoff looked at Steve and said he'd like to try again. I could see that the wind was out of his sails though, as he got back into the canoe and Steve pushed them off. His paddling was weak, gentle, reserved. Steve encouraged him to put some more muscle into it but I could tell that Geoff just wasn't loving it as much as he had been the minute he got there. 

The requirement he needed to do was to basically paddle out 50 yards, go around 2 buoys in a figure 8 and come back to shore. Steve taught him some paddling techniques that he didn't know, and they went and did their figure 8. I could hear Steve asking him if he was comfortable what with being soaking wet and all. Geoff swims in weather like this (it was in the upper 50s, and I'm sure the water was really cold) so he wasn't freaking out about being cold. He wasn't shivering or teeth chattering, so he was fine. 

In the end, he achieved what he needed to, and got signed off on that last of the ten requirements for the merit badge. 

On top of that, he didn't lose his cool and flip the mother effing hell out the way I kind of thought he might, the way he usually does. I was really relieved. 

Part of his success in this was the fact that neither Steve nor I reacted strongly to the spill. We kept our cool. Had he done it in front of 10 other Boy Scouts, I think he would have stormed off and quit. 

I know that was embarrassing for him... Steve said that it would have been embarrassing for him as a 56 year old man. He was impressed with how Geoff regrouped and got the job done. 

My biggest hope is that he can maintain that kind of skill, or come to the point where he can laugh at himself and just continue with a crowd around him who might be laughing at him and turn it into a crowd laughing with him. 

We'll see.

But, I'm proud of him -- he did a great job and that's fantastic. Whew.

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