Lions and Tigers and Boy Scouts, oh my!

I picked my six-year-old son up from school Monday and as he got in the car he proudly exclaimed, “Dad, I’m going to be a Tiger Cub!”   Since he spends most of his waking moments in the world of make-believe, I assumed he meant the animal.    Doing my best to keep the spirit alive, I said, “That’s great Buddy.  Can I be a lion?”   Apparently I was in the wrong world.   “No, Dad.  I mean a Tiger Cub – like in the Boy Scouts!”

Ah, the Boy Scouts.  Suddenly I had flashbacks to my childhood when I was (briefly) a badge-chasing, knot-tying, wood-carving lad.  I remember collecting a few badges for some of the activities.  I remember learning to tie intricate knots and wondering how in the world that would come in handy as an adult.   The last thing I remember was having a professional boxer come to our monthly meeting (held at the local church) to teach us boys how to box.  Boxing at church seemed odd.  Overall, the boxing lessons were fun until I realized that getting punched in the face was the primary goal of that sport.  I was also scheduled to fight my friend, Craig Eastwood.  Naturally, I began to explain to Craig how he needed to “turn the other cheek” for me.  For some reason he disagreed with my interpretation of that Scripture.  When boxing ended, I retired my gloves and joined a soccer team and never looked back to the Scouts… until tonight.

Tonight was the informational meeting at my son’s school and since he was so enthusiastic about being a part of it, naturally I went.   We were greeted by a socially awkward ten-year old scout at the door.  His presence physically stopped us from walking past him into the meeting room.  He then nervously recited an obviously memorized script telling him what to say to any prospective Scouters.   The mono-toned script was painful to listen to.  Though I appreciate the leadership that he was forced to exercise, it wasn’t the best first impression.  I almost felt as if I should clap when he finished.  I could see my son’s enthusiasm wane a bit.

Once we entered, there were about twenty children, as many adults and approximately four scout leaders, all wearing the traditional Boy Scout shirt adorned with badges.   The leaders were very friendly and encouraged us to sit at a table with Boy Scout literature.

Having led hundreds of meetings in my day, I have come to appreciate beginning a meeting on time.   Since it was a Boy Scout meeting, I assumed that their meetings would always begin on time.  After all, aren’t they like the military for boys?  I was wrong.  The time was now 6:39 and we were still sitting there waiting for something to happen, 9 minutes behind schedule.   Everyone was getting restless, especially my little guy.  Finally, a leader stood up to address the room.   Not surprisingly, he looked nervous.   When he opened his mouth, it was confirmed.  Perhaps the Boy Scouts need to add “public speaking” to their list of activities.   I bet if they made a badge for it, some would learn how to do it.

The Scout leader stated his credentials in the Boy Scouts.  I don’t remember the details but it is safe to say he has been in the Scouts since the Early Ming Dynasty.   He went on to talk about the different aspects of the Scouts, what the kids will be learning, the advantages to getting involved & the cost.   The whole presentation was aided by a PowerPoint slide show that was handled by an apparent Den Mother.  Though she could no doubt find her way out of the wilderness, she had no idea how to navigate the laptop.   If the Bad News Bears were to run a meeting, this is what it would have looked like.  When she realized that she was losing the attention of those in the room, she promptly taught us the Boy Scouts international symbol for “stop talking.”   It looks exactly like the international “peace” sign, except the two finger tips are the wolf’s ears and the rest of the fingers are closed, symbolizing the wolf’s mouth.   When her hands go up, our mouths go closed, like the wolf.  As she is teaching us this important silencer with all seriousness, I had an involuntary flashback to the hilarious rooftop scene in the movie, Hangover, where the bachelor party speech mentions the wolf pack.

As the meeting was finally coming to a close my son leans over and whispers, “Dad, can we go?  I don’t want to do Scouts anymore.”   What???   I was shocked.  For the last two days all the boy has talked about was being a part of the Scouts.  Now, he wants out.  When I pressed him as to why he had changed his mind, he simply said the three words that can kill interest for any person, particularly a six-year-old boy:  “It looks boring.”   You know what?  He was right.   From the moment we walked into the building to the time we learned how to close our mouths like a wolf, it was boring.   Though I know that the Boy Scouts is a good organization and that they will teach helpful skill sets over the years, I felt the same way that night.  The meeting was boring.  The leaders were boring.  They made their information boring.  Certainly, the presentation was boring.   There was little enthusiasm in the room.  It was business as usual and they just lost their first customer.

As we were walking to the car, I wanted to make sure this was his decision, not mine.  I told him that the Scouts would be fun and that he would come to love it.   Maybe this wasn’t the right Troop for us.   His mind was made up.  He was already on to the next thing, “Daddy, can I play soccer instead and you be my Coach?”  Aaaah, music to my ears!

Soccer is more my element.  Coaching is more my speed.  I’m much better at chasing a moving ball then tying an Angler’s loop.   I am certainly better at teaching the fundamentals of a corner kick than I am at starting a campfire.  And at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter if my son becomes an Eagle Scout or if he plays badminton.   What is important is that we were together, bonding as Father and Son.

That’s the beauty of organizations like the Boy Scouts.  They create opportunities to bond with your child.  Quite frankly, there isn’t enough of it today.   With school and work schedules to balance, it’s hard enough grabbing a meal with a child let alone go fishing or hiking or camping.   And yet, this is the time to do it – while they are still at home and dependent upon parents for just about everything.

There is no substitute for time with your children.   Though quality time is important, quantity time is still essential.  And quantity time takes…. time.  Has it been awhile since you spent quantity time with your son?  When is the last time you bonded with your daughter?   Get in their world somehow.   Whether it is Scouts or sports or crafts or serving the homeless – grab your child and do something with them.  You won’t regret it.  And in the process, you just might master a new skill or teach them one.  If nothing else, you communicate love to your child.   And EVERY child needs quantity time with their parents and to hear verbal affirmations from them.  Even God Himself understands how important this is,

“As soon as Jesus was baptized, He went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on Him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16-17)

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