Last night, Nathan's Cub troop went on a trail hike. As we arrived for drop off, it was beginning to rain lightly and the leaders recommended that parents come back after an hour (rather than the planned hour and a half) so that the hike could end early. That seemed like a very reasonable plan to me.
I got there at the appointed time and it was beginning to rain more heavily. I thought to myself They'll be back any minute. But I'd brought a book just in case, and I settled in, expecting to see their flashlights bobbing through the woods any moment.
I waited over an hour.
Not only did they not finish the hike early but they were actually half an hour late past the regular starting point. Lots of parents were quite angry about this. Some had younger siblings who were being kept out of bed. Some had work or other commitments being put off.
I was really angry as well. Lack of punctuality has always been one of the easiest ways to irritate me and to me, it shows a complete lack of respect for everyone else. However, I know most people don't see it that way, and so I try not to react inappropriately.
I've wondered how upset I should be about last night. The kids seem to have had a good time. A few came back in tears but mostly, they were excited and eager to share what they'd done. Nathan is getting to the age where he can be more independent and he enjoys being able to do things without my direct supervision. I don't want to taint his enjoyment by worrying about what I'm going through. I certainly don't want him to feel like he's not allowed to have had fun because I had an unpleasant time.
And I recognize that life isn't always predictable. Part of Scouting is learning to deal with nature and its unpredictability, testing oneself against the world and discovering that you are capable of dealing with more than you ever thought. Despite its British origins, getting back in time for tea is not one of the goals.
On the other hand, this was more than a minor inconvenience. As much as I don't want to taint Nathan's experience, I am more than a little frustrated with the leaders for not keeping a better grasp on time and leaving two dozen families effectively stranded by the side of the road in the rain while they waited for their children to reappear.