My older son age 14, a Life Scout, has been elected to be Senior Patrol Leader of the Boy Scout Troop. He must have made a good impression on the boys since he has only been in the Troop for 3.5 months and there are over 100 Scouts -- at times it seems my kids are lost in a sea of bodies.
Truthfully, I didn't even know how many of them even knew who my son was. By attending Troop meetings and campouts and the week-long sleepover "winter camp", he must have made his presence known, just by being his genuine self.
A main goal of Scouting, in my opinion, is the development of leadership skills and character traits. By participating in a boy-led Troop, the boys can learn some important leadership skills especially by being elected to certain leadership roles. (Some Troops are not boy-led and my husband and I are against that method so we have not allowed our sons to join adult-led Troops.)
I was in no rush for my son to be SPL as to be blunt, it's a thankless job that takes many hours and can be a lot of aggravation for a teen to handle. Not only is an SPL trying to run the Troop and keep the Scouts happy he has to contend with adult leadership and the other Scout's parent's desires and agendas and complaints and everything that goes on when one is a leader. An SPL's job usually entails "office politics" and some drama.
The SPL plans the Troop meetings and camping trips and runs the Troop meetings. The SPL has to deal with Troop leadership adults and works with the other Scout boys (some are only 10 or 11 years old) trying to help deliver a quality program. Sometimes leading so many young boys can feel like herding cats, they're not always the easiest to lead.
In our former Troop, I have seen good-hearted kids struggle with issues and feel conflicted while they tried hard to be a good SPL. One Scout, in his first month of holding the position, was faced with a serious safety violation situation, a huge liability issue. It dawned on him that it was hard to be a boy's friend and be liked by everyone when he had to deal with problems with the boys to be their boss. When he spoke to me about his struggle I told him that a good leader has a responsibility to lead and do the right thing, they do not do what is easiest or may make the most people happy. There were clear negative risks if the right thing was not done; there really was no choice but to do the right thing. That that made some Scouts angry for a while and he was "on the outs". Being a leader is not all fun and games.
Anyhow, in December, my son said he wanted to run for SPL. Then we were told that "the most popular kid in the Troop who everyone has known for years" stepped up to run for SPL too. My son was told by leadership to not be surprised if he lost because of the other boy's popularity, even though technically Scouts are not supposed to treat elections like popularity contests, they're supposed to vote for who they think will do the job best. I hated the idea of my son running and losing.
There was short notice between his late decision and the election, and he was busy, so my son didn't even write a speech, even though he knew he'd have to make one that night. He stood up in front of everyone, and off the top of his head, in a sincere yet casual manner, gave what I'd call a fair to middling statement that was not as persuasive as I would have liked to have seen. His opponent was well spoken and seemed to have practiced, and read his speech off of an electronic device. I was impressed by that speech and again was groaning inside thinking my son was doomed to lose.
Well, by a handful of votes my son won. He was surprised and happy.
I, on the other hand, was shocked and instantly became worried. (Although I did enjoy seeing my son's glowing face.) My son is working at partial capacity due to the three times a week neurofeedback therapy for the Lyme Disease neurological issues. The Scoutmaster doesn't even know anything about that, no one in the Troop does. We've never had a reason to discuss it.
My son is in a three season sport whose practice overlaps with the Scout meeting. Now he has to leave practice early and get changed and composed and be ready at the meeting time early in order to lead the Scout meeting.
This new role means he will have to attend 99% or more meetings and all the camping trips. He had great attendance before but now it's a must not just a "should" or "good to do" thing, now it's a "must do".
Also, he had just joined the Robotics Team which meets five times a week for about 20 hours, and although they don't expect everyone to be there all the time, it's one more thing for him to juggle right now. This is crunch time; the busy season of robotics is right now, right when he will go through the worst learning curve for the SPL job!
Meanwhile, we are still dealing with homeschooling amidst these challenges in between the medical appointments and his extra-curricular activities. We all feel like we're never doing enough academics with everything else going on.
Also, my son was still considering applying to a competitive magnet school (the testing and application process would occur in March). He is so fried now he can't even do test prep review for the test. How much can one kid choose to take on all at once? (These are all things he wants to do! I'm not pushing him!)
I was also concerned because being an SPL requires planning and organization skills. My son has never been great at that let alone having to be held accountable to a big team of adult leadership and being watched by over a hundred Scouts and their parents. I realized this was going to be trial by fire. He doesn't even check email or keep his own calendar or schedule. He's got a lot to learn!
I apologize if I sound anxious or negative, but I truly was worried. I don't want to see my son falter in front of so many people let alone possibly fail.
Here's where I struggle with parental enmeshment. Where is the line between being a good mother and doing too much for him?
Before the election, I thought about stopping my son from running for the position as I didn't want him to feel too much pressure to do too much at once or to save him from a possible failure.
He's 14 years old, a teenager and developing into a young adult. If he felt it was time to take on more personal responsibility, then who am I to stop him? I do want him to be responsible and to learn all these good leadership skills, sometime, I just didn't think now was the right time! But, there is never a perfect sounding time, is there? He wanted to do it so perhaps that MAKES this be the perfect time.
In order to let my son do this I had to stop myself from interfering. I didn't insert myself in the middle of this process. I had accepted the fact that he may lose and that he may be disappointed. I knew he'd get over it. I held back. That holding back was so hard for me to do.
Yet he didn't lose, he won.
And so he has a new chapter in his life to begin.
And I'm happy for him! My husband is proud also, of course!
Fast forward ---
It's been four weeks since he won the election.
I am not doing this job for my son. He has taken leadership training class to learn more about what he is to do. He is working with the Scoutmaster and with the other Scouts on the leadership team.
I am tempted to take over and do the work for my son. I am not letting myself. I keep telling myself he has to do things which sometimes mean mistakes are made. That's okay.
The immediate skills and processes he needed to do right away are to check email daily, respond to emails, compose emails that are read by all the Scouts and parents, create meeting agendas and circulate via email, and stand in front of everyone to lead the Troop meetings.
He has three meetings behind him and so far, he's been doing more than a "good enough" job.
I'm proud of my son!
He really is growing up, apparently...it does happen you know...you can't stop it! Here's the proof they do grow up:
My older son and I the night he crossed over from being a Webelos Cub Scout. He earned his Arrow of Light and became a Boy Scout that day. I'm in my Den Leader uniform, I was my younger son's Wolf Den Leader that year.
March 2008, he was 10.5 years old then.
My older son, January 2012, age 14, a Life Scout and Senior Patrol Leader.