One thing you learn very quickly when your kids go to school is that you lose control of what they get exposed to, or invited to. This has led to plenty of unexpected announcements about dances, parties, sales, sports, choir and most recently the Boy Scouts. Ordinarily we can ignore these one-off events by being busy (sometimes legitimately!) or explaining to the boys that just because their friends are going to something, they don’t have to unless they’re actually interested.
Sadly, this was not the case with the scouting announcement. I was able to ignore the first flyer, accidentally throw away the second, but the third finally planted the idea in their head. I asked why they wanted to join and they explained that “it’s cool.” Not a very good reason, but they would not let up. All their friends (i.e. 3 other kids at school) had joined.
In the interest of full disclosure, I was a cub scout. It was not your usual scouting experience, though. We were living in Rome, Italy at the time and I joined a den that was based at the Overseas School of Rome. I was take a bus from my school to OSR and do my meeting there. My father was deployed when I became a Bobcat, so my mother pinned my patch. It was deemed weird by many in the meeting, but it seemed perfectly natural to me. I worked on my assignments, learned to tie knots, knew my hand signals despite not knowing how to ride a bike, did swimming, etc. I remember some of my badges and beads being hard work, but generally, I enjoyed it. there was no den at my school when we moved to Naples and I never looked to rejoin when we moved back to the US.
In further disclosure, as an adult, I have lost all respect for the organization. Their 2004 “Youth Leadership” policy made the organization look like fools as their lessons of being a responsible citizen of good character were thrown out the window in favor of bigotry. Their further assertion that only members of organized religions can live up to their ideals set them on the course of further irrelevancy in modern America. When the sex abuse scandals started breaking and the further revelation was made that the organization had covered-up for abusive members and leaders, I was done.
The fact that my children wanted to join scouting posed a serious dilema for me. Can I prevent them from doing something based on what I believe? Should my 6 and 8 year old be exposed to my politics, or denied something because of things they don’t understand? They mostly wanted to join to be with their friends and I struggled with exposing them to the darker side of the Boy Scouts. In the end, I caved and we went and signed up.
What happened to the Boy Scouts, though?
Our first meeting was chaos. No agenda, no schedule and we built wheelbarrows out of wooden kits, but were only able to do it because another father had the tools that the leader lacked. We were then hit with 5 or 6 upcoming events that the boys could attend and earn badges or patches or something. No times or days, just left to some unknown schedule that we could agree to or not. We needed to read a chapter in the manual for another badge and go to church on some unknown Sunday to earn another.
This was teaching us citizenship, building character and fitness? Show up and get stuff? Events every weekend and a couple of nights during the week? Where we were supposed to find the time? What were we actually learning? And who is supposed to be doing the teaching?
Ironically, the first lesson I was supposed to work on with the boys was about child abuse and personal safety. I guess the BSA can provide unique insight on that?
I’m honestly not sure what to do. I cannot find a happy medium when it comes to scouting. The boys are bored so far and there doesn’t seem to be much impetus by the organization to engage them. I am torn between a total lack of respect for what the organization has become and allowing my kids to do something with their friends.
According to the manual, we just need to “do our best.”