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Danger: Cave Ahead: No Boys Allowed!

Earlier this summer, I'm sure you remember the daring rescue of the Thai boys' soccer team from a flooded cave in northern Thailand. The story took many turns, from the team first being reported as missing, to being discovered trapped in a flooded cave, and then heroically rescued by expert cave divers. The rescue story did not have a completely happy ending—a retired Thai Navy SEAL who volunteered to help find the missing boys died while placing air tanks along an underwater escape route for the boys. The death of the Navy SEAL was the only sad loss to an otherwise incredible story of courage, bravery, persistence, and diligence.

When the boys were finally rescued, the stories of how they ended up in the cave were the most thought-provoking to me. As the boys reported, they had not told their parents they would be visiting the cave. One boy in particular even reported he didn't inform his parents that he was going to the caves because he was sure he would not be given their permission.

When I heard that part of the story it immediately brought me back to my younger days of growing up on the north side of Chicago. Like most kids in the '70s, roaming the neighborhood was part of our everyday activity in the summer. We left the house in the morning, encouraged by my mother as she would often say, "why don't you go out and play and find something to do." Now, as a father with my own children, I can understand why she wanted to get rid of us for a few hours. The neighborhood was relatively safe, and I'm sure there could have been more than a few places I could have found trouble. However, what I remember distinctly was learning the fine art of asking my parents for permission when I knew they would say no. As most boys learn, it's all in the way you ask or even conveniently forgot to check if it's okay. As adults, we do the same thing at work or in our relationships when we skirt the lines of what we perceive to be acceptable. For a Thai boy who is captivated by a mysterious cave, the temptation is easy to imagine.

Boys need these moments to learn the nuances of decision-making. Obviously, most boys won't find themselves trapped in a cave, but they will find themselves in situations where there isn't a quick escape route out. Thankfully, the boys had a coach who held them together using meditation techniques so they could cope with the lack of food and physical exercise. Some might wonder, "why did the coach give the boys the okay to visit the cave?" The coach had been to the cave before and reportedly planned to only stay for a brief visit, but a flash flood sent waters rising nearly 10 feet in less than an hour.

As we get ready for a new school year, our Regis boys will probably find a creative way to ask their teachers and administrators for permission when it comes to extra recess or a break from the usual nightly homework. As adults, we have to set appropriate boundaries and explain to boys when our permission will be granted. As we develop trust with our boys, they'll realize receiving permission comes with developing maturity, honesty, and a loving family and community. Hopefully this is the "Regis Experience" for every boy, even when the lure of a mysterious cave is around the corner.