The two young boys left the Odyssey sobbing. The Flight Director tried to calm them. It wasn't working. I was at my desk preparing the camp's Rank Advancement Certificates.
"Come here and sit down." The boys followed my directions and sat in two of the four gray desks kept in front of my ridiculously long wooden desk.
"Remember what I said at the start of the camp?" I questioned. "I said that if you started getting scared you should tell us so we can let you out of the ship."
"I told him," one boy said pointing to the volunteer playing the ship's doctor.
"And I told you." The volunteer looked at the Flight Director.
"You didn't say he wanted out of the ship, you just said he was getting scared."
"Go back to the flight," I ordered. The two walked back to the Odyssey leaving me at my desk with two crying 5th grade boys.
I explained the alien intruder was gone and that part of the mission was over. It calmed one boy. "I'm ready to go back," he said as he wiped the last tears from his red eyes with a shirt sleeve. He found his way back into the Odyssey through the revolving door. The other wasn't so easily consoled.
"I want to go home." He repeated the demand to counter every reason I gave him to stay and 'tough it out'. At the end, I surrendered the battle and handed him the phone.
I couldn't hear the boy's five minute conversation with his mother. He stopped crying half way through the call.
"My moms going to come see me before I go to bed," he said when he handed me back the phone. It was very cold outside and nearly 11:00 P.M. I felt sorry for this devoted mom, willing to drive twenty minutes each way just so her boy could see her for reassurance before going to bed.
I felt I needed to say something.
"I feel sorry for your mom." I used my pitiful voice. He looked confused at my statement. "Think about what you asked her to do just for you. You want her to leave your warm house and drive all the way here and back just so you can see her for a few minutes before you go to bed."
He stared at the desktop, not wanting to look me face to face. "You're ten years old and a big boy now. I think you should think about your mom for a moment and what you could do to make her night better. Think about how proud your mom would be of you if you called her and told not to come all the way over here in the cold. Don't you think that would be a nice thing to do for your mom?" I paused for dramatic effect, then continued. "I know I wouldn't want my mom to drive out to see me in the middle of the night if it wasn't an emergency. Is this an emergency? What do you think?"
The boy sat still. "I just want to see her before I go to bed," he mumbled.
"I understand, but the phone is right here. Isn't talking to her on the phone almost as good? I sure feel sorry for your mom." I put the phone in its cradle. "The phone is here if you want to use it. You decide. I've got to go back to my work."
I started typing. He sat motionless. I waited for his next move hoping inside he would 'man up' and not have his mom drive out here just to console him. I did my best to help him grow up a little and learn to be more self reliant. I wondered if the lesson had taken root.
"Can I used the phone," he whispered. I felt hope stir inside me. He dialed his mom's cell phone. She answered.
"Mom, you don't have to come out. I'm OK. I just wanted to talk to you."
I stopped typing and looked with a sense of pride at this ten year old boy. He was thinking of someone else instead of himself. There were a few more tears before the call ended. He handed me the phone.
"You're a brave boy. Your mom's got to be very proud of you," I said as I ruffled his hair. He smiled.
He made one more call before going to bed. There were more tears but he held firm. He was going to stay and she didn't need to come see him. He made it through the night without another problem and survived the camp to the end.
Three other boys woke me up at different times throughout the night. Each had homesick stomachs. Each wanted to go home. I talked each boy through his fear. At the end, not one of our 45 ten and eleven year old's went home. It was a good night and another small victory for this old camp director.
Have a Great Weekend,