Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Suddenly Seeing the Big Picture of Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting

Cub Scouting has been a big part of our family’s life in the last five years. Today I was thinking how I really don’t blog about it much. Today I’m surprised at myself for having writing so little about it and I feel moved to write today about what is on my mind. I feel that suddenly I am seeing the big picture of Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting.

Right now both my husband and I volunteer with Cub Scouts. Sometimes the experience has been very stressful to be honest. We used to be with one Pack and we left due to various problems that were not being resolved. I think what had happened in the first three years is that we were so snarled in the trees that we didn’t see the forest. There were problems that consumed our time and were so stressful that it blocked my ability to see the larger picture. The fourth year we changed to a new Pack and it was a year of decompressing from one situation while adjusting to another. This fifth year has been so easy and much more enjoyable.

We did keep going along through the very imperfect situation in the old Pack, doing many things and having fun (amidst the stress) but that blocked us from seeing the bigger picture of Cub Scouting. Sometimes Cub Scouting seemed ‘so big’ and ‘so important’ because it was taking up so much of my time and my husband’s time, and because we seemed to be reacting to problems all the time. Now that we’re nearing the end and a bigger venture of Boy Scouting looms on the horizon, Cub Scouting suddenly seems much smaller. I don’t mean that Cub Scouting is unimportant and insignificant, I mean that it seems to be like ‘baby steps’ which lead to something bigger, better, and more important.

This year my older son is in the highest rank of Cub Scouting. This is his last year. He will be crossing over to Boy Scouting in four weeks! We started thinking about what Troop he would cross over to last summer, lightly. It started by me finding out which adults that volunteered with me at Day Camp were involved in Boy Scouting. I noted how they interacted with the boys. I thought about which I’d like my son to be around, which would be good role models and which I’d like to avoid at all costs. I watched the Boy Scout volunteers at Day Camp, to see how they acted and how they interacted with the younger Cub Scouts. I felt this was an indication of how they acted within their Troop. When I attended Cub Scout Resident Camp with my son, I noticed the Boy Scouts at camp and how they interacted with each other and with the younger Cubs and I could only hope my sons will turn out that well by the time they are that age.

I thought about what we would like in a Troop and what we’d want to avoid. In the fall, my husband and son camped with one Troop. We attended a Thanksgiving dinner with another Troop as a whole family. We have attended two Troop meetings. This week we will attend two more. We have not made a final decision yet about which Troop our son will go to but both my husband and I have a good idea which one it will be. Last night one parent who volunteers with Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts also told me that if in this first half-year of Boy Scouting our sons don’t click well with their Troop they can change to another Troop in the fall to find a better fit in lieu of losing interest or dropping out entirely from Scouting. I had not even thought about that good option.

Three other Cub Scout families in my son’s current Cub Scout Den would like to be with us and have the boys cross over to the same Troop together. However we all realize that we will pick a Troop that is best for us even if it means splitting up. I need to do what is right and best for my son and our entire family and if we split away from some of the nice families and boys, so be it.

The decision as to what Troop we go to rests largely with me and my husband, not my son. (Not all families I know operate in this way, some just let their son pick a Troop with one or two kids he likes in it and they go there.) I feel we need a Troop that works for the whole family and I know my son is in no position to make the best decision for our whole family because he has no way of knowing about some of the things to look for or to avoid. For example my son would never know what Troop is a disorganized mess or which has a well organized infrastructure. I also am looking for certain role modeling components which my son, being a ten year old child, has no skills to judge.

These five years of being in Cub Scouting have been fun for my son but as I said before, sometimes it has been very stressful for me and my husband. I have put in many hours of volunteer work to make sure a program exists for my sons. To save my sanity I just cannot go to a Troop where I know I will have continual stress. I am willing to volunteer and help the Troop but I cannot join a Troop where a large burden will fall upon my inexperienced shoulders.

I have other ideas for what I want and don’t want from a Troop and I am observing and talking to the parents in the Troops to find a good match. Our family wants a Troop which focuses on the boys developing their leadership skills. We want a “boy led” Troop which is the traditional Boy Scouting way. To the contrary, in keeping with the trend of hyper-parenting and helicopter parenting, some Troops are now largely planned, controlled, and executed by the adults. I have seen teenaged Boy Scouts being treated in a patronizing manner, treating them like wimpy, incompetent young children at an adult-led Troop. I want a Troop that helps boys grow into young men, not a Troop that treats teens like incompetent boys, or barks out orders drill sergeant fashion. I want the boys to lead themselves and to be independent and competent, not to be compliant, dependent followers. I feel the ‘adult led’ model is more of a Cub Scouting model as it should be because Cub Scouting is for young boys aged 6-10 who do need continual adult supervision and guidance. I see Boy Scouting as a bridge from boyhood to manhood. I do not see Boy Scouting as just a continuation of Cub Scouting.

I see Boy Scouting as quite different than Cub Scouting. I want my son to have more of a responsible role in the Troop and to learn leadership skills, become more independent, in short, to become a young man over these years. I want the other Scouts to be in more of a mentoring role to the younger scouts. To this end I would like a Troop whose Patrols are of mixed ages, which is the old-fashioned way. I am told many Troops now put boys all of one age in a Patrol. This is just like school, by grouping children of the exact age together. There is no mentoring there; it is the blind leading the blind. Not only do I suspect that, the parents who experienced both models within their Troop said this was what happened and that it was not good. That model of grouping in same ages promotes cliques and then the interactions with older Scouts in other Troop activities is more artificial and forced, and more shallow.

I want a Troop with a good number of active Scouts who really want to be there. I understand that with any Troop there may be a number who are not truly interested in being there, or some who are not active, but I would like still a good number who are active and happy in Scouting. I want the Troop to have enthusiasm for Scouting. I do not want a Troop with clear signs of apathy or boredom.

I want a Troop with active adult volunteers, where many hands make light work. I want a Troop with a structure that is organized. I want a Troop with a history of the parents getting along and having an infrastructure. I will avoid Troops that I know have ongoing strife. I want a Troop whose Scoutmaster is not on the way out with no replacements in sight. I want a Troop with good finances and a plan for the fundraising, where all the Scouts are mandated to do fundraising, not just to have the parents pay their way or that allows some Scouts to do nothing while other Scouts do more than their share to make up the difference.

I need a Troop with a Troop meeting night that jives with our family’s schedule. I need a Troop whose camping schedule is not a problem for our family, not conflicting with church attendance on Sunday, for example.

The last Troop meeting we went to was a night planned to welcome Webelos who are considering going to that Troop. I was very impressed on many levels.

I watched the teenaged Boy Scouts interacting with each other and with the visiting Cub Scouts. I saw an entirely different thing, I saw more mature young men showing leadership skills. I saw Boy Scouts with good interpersonal skills, leading groups and speaking to the larger group. I saw them treating others with respect and dignity. I saw Boy Scouts with confidence and self-assurance.

While the boys were busy learning some cooking and camping skills the parents had a meeting. Different volunteer parents explained the entire Boy Scouting model and then they explained how the Troop works.

On that night, for the first time I got a glimpse of the bigger picture of Boy Scouting and how if all goes well, it could really help a boy become a man. I suddenly saw the bigger picture of Cub Scouting for the first time that night also, realizing that the Cub Scouting journey led to this, it led to something bigger and more important. All my son had done in the last five years in Cub Scouting had led up to this point. Cub Scouting was fun and through it our boys and our family did many activities and tried some new things. Some friends and acquaintances were made. I feel now that my son is on the cusp of something much larger though. Where Cub Scouting was about having fun and building some character and camaraderie, Boy Scouting is about growing boys into men and it is about raising boys up to be independent, responsible leaders.

I heard the parents speak about their sons and their experiences with Boy Scouting. Some have young men who are now in college. Some have boys who made it to be an Eagle Scout and who still have younger sons in Scouting now. I heard about how the boys grow into young men in these years and how the parents thought Scouting was a good influence on their sons through the tumultuous teen years. I think I’m a good parent and I know I’ve put a lot of hard work into parenting my boys, but as I looked at and listened to these parents of teenagers and college aged boys, I suddenly felt like my son was still so young, and I was so inexperienced. I don’t have a teenager yet, I know that. I cannot begin to imagine what parenting a teenager will be like. I felt reassured and happy though, to be around these parents because I suddenly myself felt like I had some mentors! I haven’t experienced that with Cub Scouting so that must be why I didn’t expect to have that with Boy Scouting. I had not even thought about the fact that if we aligned with the right Troop that I myself may gain some wisdom and guidance from the other parents. I would be thrilled if that happened!

As I looked at the Boy Scouts, I tried to imagine my sons someday being their age. I saw tall teens, with broad shoulders and deep voices. It is hard to imagine my sons going from where they are now to that. Yes, I know that in this last year my older son shot upward so that now the top of his head is over my shoulder, but still he is a little boy. I saw teens acting like young men, not acting like immature boys. I am ready for that journey to begin for my older son.

I can think of no better way for my sons to go through their teen years than with Boy Scouting as a part of their life. I am sure that Boy Scouting is not perfect and it will have its challenges. Yet spending time having “good clean fun” while learning leadership skills is something I think can only have positive influences on my son’s life.

It feels great to end my older son’s Cub Scout year on a high note. I am happy that my son enjoyed Cub Scouting so much that he can’t wait to cross over into Boy Scouting. I feel ready to move on to this other, more challenging experience. I am so excited. In all these years of Cub Scouting, I have never been so excited. I can’t wait!

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1 comment:

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

Congratulations! The Arrow of Light takes a bit of doing for the both the boy and the family.

Last night, I was reflecting on my son's first two years of Scouts. And an incident that occured last night at the troop meeting really opened my eyes to how much scouting, even with the ups and downs, has helped my son develop some very good and manly characteristics. It's all worth it when you see your boy "suddenly" act like a the man he is becoming and it is good.