Friday, October 17, 2008

Little Man Joins Up - BSA, Here We Come!

My Little Man is not a joiner. Tweene, she loves a good group: drama, volleyball, band, manga artists: you name it, she'll join it, being the outgoing and outspoken girl she is. (Don't know where on earth she gets that...) Little Man, on the other hand, is much more quiet and reserved outside of the family. Granted, he's a typical, squirrelly boy at home, but he's a shy guy at heart, much like The Hubby. Totally has The Hubby's temperament and love of bad puns. So when Little Man came home with a flyer to join the Cub Scouts, I was pretty surprised.

Actually, I have been suggesting Cub Scouts to Little Man for some time. Ever since he was old enough to be a cute little kindergarten Tiger Scout. He never was interested, and I would bring it up on occasion, just to test the waters. Each time, the idea was roundly rejected. "Naah, too much work. No, I don't want to do that. It's more to do after school. I already have (insert current activity here)." No interest whatsoever. I showed him the cool uniforms, the fun activities, the handbooks, talked about camping and rope courses and jamborees. We even got a subscription to Boy's Life, the official scouting magazine of the BSA, just to lay around, hoping it would pique his interest. Still: nope, nada, nothin'. Well, I'd pretty much given up on the idea. Man, what I wouldn't give for my boy to be a scout.

Now, you may be wondering why I was so gung-ho on the whole Boy Scout thing. Well, folks, I have a confession to make: ever since I was a little tiny girl, I have desperately wanted to be a Cub Scout. Yep, you heard me right, a Cub Scout. In the Boy Scouts of America. Not the Girl Scouts, the Boy Scouts. Why? Lots of reasons. I'm a tomboy. I'm still a tomboy. I have always been a tomboy, much to my mother's dismay. Being a tomboy, the idea of Camp Fire or Girl Scouts just plain sucked. First of all, you had to wear this dorky lookin' uniform. I already had to wear a stupid skirt or jumper all day at Our Lady of Perpetual Guilt. Wasn't that enough? That was a definite no-go. Just a non-negotiable for me. If I couldn't wear Levi's or a cool uniform, with pants, I wasn't joining. Second, what were the Girl Scouts famous for? Cookies. Selling friggin' cookies in that dorky uniform. What was the Camp Fire Girls claim to fame? Those mints they sold (they were great mints.) But have you ever heard of either group doing much of anything else? Not a whole lot. Sewing badges. Boring. Jewelery making. Yuck. I'm sure they probably did a small smattering of things I'd have liked, but I wasn't going there. I had already run across copies of Boy's Life at the pediatrician's office, and I saw all the cool things they got to do, and the "girl versions" of this organization couldn't compare. I dreamed of wearing a cool khaki camp shirt covered with rockin' insignias, badges and honor cords, and olive green cargo pants with a pocket knife hooked to the belt. I could see myself hiking into the wilderness with my troop, doing woodcraft with my den and earning my pins and badges for archery, citizennship, forestry. I wanted to build a Pinecar Derby car and compete with fellow scouts (who I'd beat roundly, no doubt!). I longed for a jamboree, pitching my own tent under the stars, and learning how to be an Eagle Scout one day. (Plus, that snazzy Boy Scout red Beret was a pretty cool fashion accessory to aim for, ya gotta admit!) I found old scout handbooks at the Church thrift shop, where my Nana volunteered, and absorbed all I could about scouting. I grilled my scout friend to tell me what they did after every meeting. I learned the motto, the oath, the secret handshake. I got myself a subscription to Boy's Life by snagging a subscription card from the doctor's office. My Nana, who I loved dearly and who always understood these things, (bought me my first basketball, football, toy rifle and Partridge Family album), got me the money order made out to the BSA for my subscription. I scoured over the nearby thrift shops for neckerchief slides, uniform shirts and scout caps for 25-30 cents each. I cobbled together my own uniform, all the while hoping for a Supreme Court ruling that would force the scouts to accept a girl. I looked into scouting for kids in rural areas where they were the only member of their troop. Still had to be a boy. I longed to be a Boy Scout with all of my little girl heart.

So, when my boy came home, and wanted to join, of his own volition, it was all I could do to rein in my unbounded enthusiasm. YAY! We were going to join CUB SCOUTS! FINALLY! Images of me in a Den Leader's uniform, leading cool hikes and helping my Little Man and his buddies to learn the scout oath (I still know it by heart...) We set out imediately to look for a troop closer than the one at his school, (he comes to school in my district with me, and it'd be apain to drive all the way back at night.) So we sat down together, and found a contact name on the internet. We were on our way! How simple.

See, when I tried to get Tweenie into a Girl Scout troop, after a year, we finally gave up. No one seemed to want a new member: "Well, we alredy have eight girls, I don't knoooow..." It was tougher to get into than a friggin' country club! So I was surprised and delighted when I received an email from the Cub Scout Troop Leader the very next day! Hey, these guys actually want us to join! The leader had already forwarded my email to the Webelos Pack Leader (Webelos are 4th graders: "WE'll BE LOyal Scouts," see?) who went ahead and put us on the contact list. We were invited to the Pack meeting the following week. We're in! YES! Little Man was happy, and I was THRILLED! (Yes, I'm yelling, here. I finally cracked the code and got into Cub Scouts, for Pete's sake! I was gonna be the best scout mom ever!)

Liberal moment: Let me take a moment here, my fellow politicos, to say that I did feel some hypocrisy. I do not agree nor condone the Boy Scouts of America decision to exclude boys with a homosexual orientation. And I felt a little conflicted. There is an important lesson to be learned here. But do I exclude Little Man from joining this organization as an object lesson, or do I support what he wants to do, as there is much to benefit Little Man in Scouting? The Hubby and I did struggle with it, and came to the conclusion that a) it would break his little heart if I didn't let him join, and he might wind up obsessing over it as badly as his mother did for the rest of his life, and b) really, it was a lot like my being a practicing Catholic. Seriously, hear me out: As a Catholic, am I supposed to agree and abide by all that the Pope sets down? Yes. Do I in practice? No. I am a "cafeteria Catholic," and I do not throw my belief in the tenets of my faith to the wayside because the Pope has made a political decision and I am pro-Choice. Or because I believe priests should be allowed to marry. And think women should be priests. And think gay men should be allowed to be priests. Um, okay, before I wind up renouncing my faith, I'd best get back to the original story. Suffice it to say, we've discussed the issue, and Little Man knows that we disagree with the decision made by the BSA muckey mucks because it is wrong. So, we are a "cafeteria Cub Scout" family. So be it.

Well, we bought him his little uniform, and he looks cute as all get-out. He was thrilled to walk into the first pack meeting and see all that testosterone in one room. He stopped dead in his tracks. "Woooooooow, Mom!" Hats flying, boys sliding on their knoees across the cafeteria floor, hootin' and hollerin', and parents all A-OK with boys being boys. Full grown people (men and women!) dressed head to toe in official BSA Scout gear. Way cool! Everone has been extremely friendly, and everybody involved with the boys seems to love this stuff as much as I did when I was a kid. (Hey, maybe there are more folks out there like me than I thought!) He leaped the steps, two and three at a time to get into the meeting, and his nose is constantly stuck into his Cub Scout Handbook, learning and reciting the necessary info to earn his Bobcat badge. I haven't earned a uniform yet, but have been asked to share any expertise I may have with the troop, so I'm excited. I was teary-eyed seeing him participate in his first flag ceremony. I love his serious little face as he practices the Law of The Pack and his Cub Scout salute. Tweenie mouths to me, "How cute, Mom!" The Hubby beams with pride as he helps the boy adjust his neckerchief as he once did himself long ago. And best of all, last trip to the Scout Store, Little Man handed me a bumper sticker, saying, "This is the only thing I think we are missing, Mom." It reads, in big, bold blue letters on a field of gold, "I am proud of my Cub Scout." Yep, you bet we are. .And I think we made the right choice for our boy