I should not be surprised, but I am

The thing about Scouting in general and especially Cub Scouts (yes, another one of those posts) is that I am not surprised by what I see in the end when I stop and think about it. Maybe I am just a little annoyed by it all, okay so a lot annoyed by it, but when it comes right down to it I am not surprised. I am not sure if it is just the upbringing that my parents gave me or the fact that I was around it so much growing up. I was around people who did Scouting. That was what we did. I only had one brother, but I was around my friends’ brothers and I was around my friends who were doing Scouting. I was also around the family friends who were very much involved with the Scouting program. I suppose today, I am extremely grateful for those “life lasting” examples. I might not have realized that this is what they were all those years ago, but sitting here looking at the brevity of it now, that is ultimately what it boils down to.

I was humbled by the sights I beheld at Roundtable earlier this month. Truly humbled. There before my eyes were two people that I grew up with being awarded their Woodbadge beads. Yes, I got to experience the Woodbadge beading of two individuals that had some sort of influence – directly – in the life of me and the ones that I loved growing up.

Lei Lani Natale was my youth leader growing up. Who knew that all these years later we would be reunited on similar grounds? Who would have thought that many years later we would stand in similar places and share the same desires for boys the same ages – that we will have some sort of impact in the lives of these Cub Scouts, that we will make a difference in their lives? I certainly did not. I was teenager wanting to get out and experience the world back then. She was my Young Women’s leader trying to guide me and convince me to make the right choices.

Lonni Franklin was the other individual beaded that night. Loni was the father of my younger brother and sister’s friends growing up. I knew the family, but they were the closer friends. They did not have any kids my age so I did not have any close relations outside of the ties my brother and sister had with the family. The family was a friend of the family back in the days of time spent in the Inwood Ward. Still, I was delighted to see him beaded as well. I remember the days growing up. It was not a walk in the park growing up in Inwood Ward. It was not then, I am sure it is not now. It was not exactly a posh area of town.

These leaders have their work cut out for them. They endured through the years and there I was standing at the back of the room and I am glad I was there to witness that moment. I am proud to have known them as a youth. I am proud to know them now and be able to call them friends.

It is perspective largely that I gained from that evening. There are people that will never truly gain a testimony of the Scouting program and how important it is in the lives of the boys and even the ones around us. I actually do not understand why this is. I suppose to some degree it is because it is not necessarily something that we choose to do in the Church, we are often forced into it. Maybe we feel like our agency is taken away from us. I do not know what people think actually and I will not presume to know or understand that.

I just know that this is the program that our Heavenly Father has felt was right for our boys at this time. They have felt it is right for one hundred years and yet we are so crappy at it. We as parents are so resistant and are truly pitiful at making sure that our boys and our families as a whole understand the true importance of the Scouting program. Our prophets have endorsed and supported Scouting for years. This is no surprise. There is nothing new or noteworthy here. I am not saying anything profound or new here. This is the activity program that they have chosen to use for our boys in the church. We might have Young Women’s and Activity Days for our girls and we are grateful and delighted about this, but are we just as honored and excited about our boys joining the Scouting program? This is their program. This their program to shine in. This is where they learn their life skills. This is where they learn to be boys and ultimately men.

How do we fail so miserably when it comes to getting our children excited about their church activities and making sure they are there and on task when we succeed so well in other areas? We cannot let them down in just this one area or we are falling down on our responsibility of getting our children to their meetings and making sure they are fulfilling their church obligations. This is what we signed up for folks. When we agreed to be faithful and loyal servants unto the Lord, we agreed to faithful and loyal to all the programs, not just to some of them. When we agreed to make sure we attended our church meetings, we agreed to make sure our children attended all of their meetings not just some of them. That includes their Scout and Cub Scout meetings. It does not mean that our girls will make Activity Days because it requires less work of us and our Cub Scouts will not make it every other week because it is inconvenient otherwise. It means that we will some how find a way to make sure that our children will make it to their meetings no matter what. That is what we agreed to by our membership in the church. It does not mean that we have to be perfect by any stretch of the imagination, as I am sure that we are not perfect but it does mean we have to strive to do better than when it is convenient.

The church is not about convenience. Cub Scouts and Scouting are not about convenience, they are about building character. Sometimes we really have to reach and struggle to build character. Sometimes we have to do hard things. Hard things build character.

It really drives me crazy when my children that they cannot do something because it is too hard. It pretty much guarantees that they will be doing it anyway. It is my way of proving a point for them. It might be not so fun at first, but as they start to figure things out they realize that they really can do it. We are often the same way in many aspects of our lives. We just need that little extra push. We get the shove, we try a little harder, we start to achieve, we try a little harder, and we succeed. Mission accomplished. It might not be perfect but we accomplish the end result we set out for. That is the beauty of Cub Scouts and Scouts, it is not about perfection, it is about trying. Cub Scouts especially is about trying their best. They repeat “I will do my best” and if that is what they have done, then that is all that is asked of them.

It still amazes me that this is not what is shown by so many. How can it be? If they do not show up, how can it be “their best?” I cannot in the deepest places of my little brain wrap my mind around it and figure out how in anyway this helping anyone “do their best” or even “be their best.” I do not get it. I do not understand it. Yet here we are week after week and we have repeat no shows and we have half participation. We have little or no effort put into getting a child to meetings on time or even in uniform.

Maybe I should not be upset about the uniform. Maybe I should just let that blow over, but when I have other children that do notice that they are in uniform and others are not I have a real problem with it. I then have to explain to other boys why they have to wear uniform when others do not. That is in no way fair to the boys and it is not fair to me. I take the time to show up in uniform – as attractive and comfortable as it is (it is real cool in 95˚F temperatures with 3 layers of tops on). So in the end it does bother me because I get stuck in the middle of it all. I get stuck in the middle of a child that is confused as to why he has to wear uniform when someone else is not. Frankly, we teach a philosophy at my house that I am not above teaching to a group of Cub Scouts – “You do not have to be the best, but the privileges are best at the top.” There are a few different spins on it, but if you spin it for Cub Scouts it would have to be something like, “You do not have to wear your uniform, but the privileges are nicer if you do.” Boys in full uniform can do flag ceremony, boys not in full uniform cannot. We have asked nicely, we have tried bead rewards with treats, we have tried reminders…the list goes on. I am really tired of the resistance. We are either trying to teach the boys to choose the right, or we are not. We are either trying to teach the boys that there are consequences for making the wrong choice, or we are not. We are either trying to teach the boys that we have a choice, but if we choose to not wear our uniform, we choose to not participate in certain things as well, or we are not. Our actions are conscious and our actions and consequences whether good or bad. We cannot reward the ones that always do the good if we do not somehow remove some privileges from the ones that do not always do the good. There has to be some point where we say, enough is enough. Not everyone wins. We build no character if everyone always wills all of the time.

Maybe I shouldn’t even say this because I was once a resistant one, but I humbled myself after I said my spill and I went in and bought expensive olive green Scout Pants for both of my Scouts and I have kept them in them every day since then. A uniform is not too much to ask. We have already relaxed the uniform for the Cub Scouts, they do not have to wear the expensive navy blue Cub Scout Pants/Shorts. It has always been like that as long as I can remember. As long as my boys have been affiliated with Cub Scouts – 8 years ago. I do not think that it is too much to ask that a child show up in uniform for an hour every week. They show up in swim trunks for swim practice. They show up in soccer cleats and whatnot for soccer practice. I make sure my son is in his karate gi every time he goes to karate class. Maybe it is not perfect every week, but at least an effort should be made.

The fact of the matter is that we are grooming future priesthood holders. It starts in Cub Scouts and one day they will be asked to wear a white shirt and tie every Sunday, the uniform of the priesthood, so that they can pass the Sacrament. Are you going to resist that too? I certainly hope not. When the decide they are going to go on a Mission, they will wear one every single day for two years. Will you resist when that is all you buy them? I certainly hope not. I will be honest that I have made sure my boys were in white shirt and tie since they were old enough to walk basically. Why would I make it any different now?

Why would I question the Lord’s hand in this program? I don’t. I was served humble pie and ultimately found my testimony of the Scouting program. I was converted to the Scouting program and its importance hence my resistance subsided. My humility remains each time I have to go slap another $100-150 down on the counter at the Scout Shop because one of the boys grew and it is now time to buy another uniform. That is my responsibility as their mother. I do no differently when they out grow their Sunday clothes. I go buy them a new white shirt, undershirts, and new dark slacks. Why would I question the the clothes they need to fulfill their position in the prophet’s endorsed program? I shouldn’t. So I don’t. I do not necessarily enjoy it just like I do not enjoy buying new Sunday clothes when they do their growth spurts in rapid succession. The key is just to make sure someone else will use those uniforms. We take care of our uniforms. We will then hang the one that is outgrown in my closet and we will pray it fits the next child in the line-up. They do not always. We had a pair of pants that did not fit the next child. I still have those pants. They likely will fit the youngest child as he is smaller. The point is, hang onto them for your other children. They are like gold. They are not a one time use attraction. Treat them with care and they will be kind to you back.

I am not entirely sure how this post went from humble watching of two old friends to a grumbling rant, but it did. I suppose it comes down to the fact that there is so much frustration that comes with being a Scout and Cub Scout leader. If you have not sensed that or can even understand that, I encourage you to volunteer to help out. Instead of complaining about what is being done or not being done, I challenge you to volunteer to help out. Most of the time the black sheep of callings are in the Scouting program. Volunteer to help out. We need warm bodies and we need willing hands. We need hearts that will soften and convert to these callings. We need hearts that will learn to love these boys. We need hearts that will see these faces week after week and melt when those faces light up and their smiles go across their faces when they accomplish something, when they figure something out, or when they are just having fun. We have a lot of fun in Cub Scouts. We do a lot of work, but we have a lot of fun doing it.

If you want to help reduce the stress we experience as LDS Cub Scout leaders, think about the following few thoughts. If you feel the need to complain about what is being done or not being done, I challenge you to think about what your own “calling” at church is and ask how long did you spend working on it this week. Honestly think about it. How long did you spend prepping for it? How long did you spend collecting supplies? How long did you spend organizing it? Getting everything to the meeting location? Setting up? Talking over rowdy boys trying to explain directions they were only half listening to? How many other people out the door and to “other” locations (not the church) at the exact same time you needed to be where you needed to be to do that calling? How about hiring a babysitter so you can do that calling? How many other callings get put on hold for that calling? Do you need to go run and drop off a child somewhere else as soon as you get done with your calling but can’t because you have to clean up the building and make sure all the kids are picked up? Then we do it again all next week.

That is what it takes to be a Cub Scout leader. It is not a 1-hour per week calling. We spend a good chunk of our week thinking about Cub Scouts. Not the hour we are with your boy. Most of our week. When we are out at the stores and we find an idea, we make note of it. We figure out how to do all of our activities on as small of a budget as possible. We have a lot of boys. We figure out how to get them to do as many different activities as possible so they have a good variety of things. Boys get bored very quickly. We try to make it fun but get everything done at the same time.

Some of us are asking you to simply be a Scouter and do what you are supposed to be doing anyway. We are simply asking that every parent pull their own weight. We are simply asking that every parent play an active role in their own child’s scouting career. We are simply asking that they show up and you know what their child is supposed to be doing. It is in the handbook you bought them, you know the one you bought when you complained about the cost of the uniform that you do not insist that they wear (which you paid for).

In the mean time, I am going to sit back and I am going to enjoy the Scouting ride. I am going to enjoy the experience. That is what I am here for. I am here to help boys enjoy Scouting. I am here to help little boys be the best Cub Scouts they can be. I am here to help bigger boys have the best Scouting experience they can have. That is what it is all about. It is not about you and I as parents, it is about the boys. So when you want to come down to it, remove yourself as a parent. Step back. Put your child first. It is their experience. Which one will they remember 5 years from now? 10 years from now? How about 20 years from now? Which one will mean the most to them?

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