How is this for irony? I managed to eke out better than a post a day (for PostADay and NaNoWriMo) last month, and with one flip of the calendar, I fall off the wagon. I cannot even claim to have posted elsewhere, as frequently I do not transfer such posts to this website. However, yesterday I took the day off from writing (also exceptionally rare). I will say that I think I had an excellent excuse: A wonderful young man who has been a part of our extended family was awarded the highest achievement in scouting yesterday: The Eagle Scout.
According to the Troop Leader that presided over the ceremony—made all the more austere by the fact that it was on a military base here in the city—only two percent of boys who enter the Boy Scouts of America make it to the level of Eagle Scout. For those who were never involved in scouting (I made it through Junior Girl Scouts, as did my daughter, before dropping out), it may be hard to appreciate the honor of this achievement. If you had been in the audience hearing the three young men who were given their Eagle Scout ranks yesterday, I believe you would have been blown away by their maturity, dignity, intelligence and obvious leadership: These “boys” didn’t need to brag about their ability to lead; they wore their confidence in a way very few of their peers do. (There seems to be a “lost boy” syndrome for men between the ages of 18-30 nowadays… but that’s a post for a different day.)
Now switch to my own predicament: having a son in desperate need of positive male role models (not to mention boys who are good mentors). My son has started to ask about joining the scouts; when I went to yesterday’s ceremony, I projected an image of my boy 10 years from now standing on a similar stage. I want my son to be a leader and not a follower, but more importantly, I want him to become the man I truly think he is fully capable of becoming.
However, the standards of today’s BSA are not in line with what truly is needed for today’s boys. For example, the Eagle Scout award comes with three pins to be bestowed upon those people in the Eagle Scout’s life that helped him on that journey to adulthood: One for his mom, one for his dad, and one for a person who was most influential in getting him through to the Eagle Scout rank (i.e. typically a troop leader or another Eagle Scout a few years senior). There’s no pin for a sibling who helped raise a brother, nothing for a dedicated “nanna” who may have stood in while mom was working to support her family; there’s certainly no pin for a second mom (or a second dad, for that matter).
The number of boys going into scouting have dropped dramatically over the past decade (for a good article outlining statistics, click here). I do not think that there is one single (or simple) reason for the decline in membership; the world is changing and kids have so many opportunities from which to choose. However, if you look at whom the Boy Scouts are best designed to serve, it is sons of single moms. Now, mom may not be single for the entirety of a boy’s trek from Tiger Scout to Eagle Scout, but an institution that has yet to come to terms with the changing face of today’s “nuclear family” is never going to build its ranks.
I for one do not think women scout leaders are the answer. Getting my son involved in scouting would be for him to learn how to be a man from an actual male. My daughter is a great surrogate father, but my son always responds differently to men than women. As so few men go into elementary ed, he has almost no males in authority to mentor him. And, for the record, I don’t particularly care about that authoritative male’s sexual orientation (despite the hype, most predators are heterosexual, so I’m not concerned about that either).
I just would be far more inclined to support my son’s efforts in scouting if I knew that—with his hard work and determination—he could stand on a stage 10 years from now and offer a pin to his mother… and his sister. I don’t want false anecdotes or accolades for a parent who is doing his best but whose best will never be enough for his son. My family consists of three people, and my son’s “parents” are here for him every single day. The BSA needs to reach out and embrace us, because there is so much to offer a generation of boys that shouldn’t go into adulthood rudderless.