My ten year old son is a Cub Scout.
Well, he’s a Cub for two and a half more months; he’s bridging to Boy Scouts in February.
As a queer parent, I’ve struggled with my decision to allow him to participate in this organization for the best part of two years now. I said no when he was little; we lived in an exceptionally conservative area and the idea scared me. All I knew of Scouts, because I wasn’t from a Scouting family, was that their national organization didn’t like me much.
But since he was little, Sharkman was enamored of the idea of the uniform and the activities and the camaraderie.
So when Rhett, who is from a Scouting family, came along, Sharkman got signed up. He joined as a Webelo – the last step of Cub Scouts before you make the jump into Boy Scouts.
He’s been in love ever since. He enjoys the basic activities – learning how to camp and fish responsibly, getting his First Aid certification, discovering things about acting and computers and science. Sharkman is going to leave Cub Scouts with 19 of the 20 possible merit badges, and is the single most decorated member of his entire Pack.
I’ve learned to love a lot of things about Scouting. I’ve learned that the most basic emphasis that the organization teaches is responsibility to your fellow man. And I like that message. I like that the boys are pinned with each new rank when they advance, but the patch is pinned upside down. They aren’t entitled to wear the new rank, sewn right-way-up to their uniform, until they’ve done a good turn for someone else.
Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t another queer parent apology post for letting my kid participate in an organization that wishes I didn’t exist.
Our local Pack is decent to us, for the most part. I expect the Troop (the older boys) to be the same.
But national can fall in a hole, never to be heard from again, as far as I’m concerned.
This also, though, isn’t a post about how I’m some kind of a rebel parent – trying to subvert Scouting from within.
This post isn’t about me at all.
This post is about a ten year old young man who has decided, in part because of the things he’s learned in Scouting, that he needs to do something.
Sharkman has been watching the news about Sandy Hook right alongside us. He’s been upset, and sad, and angry at the disturbed young man who slaughtered his own family and then shattered hundreds more.
Sharkman found out yesterday that two of the little boys who were gunned down were brand new Tiger Cubs – the very first, introductory level of Scouting. Three of the other children were siblings of older Scouts. And the heroine, Victoria Soto, was an Explorer (another level of Scouting affiliated with the BSA, that focuses on young adults of both genders).
He was deeply disturbed by that. Sharkman’s exact words were, “Those boys were my brothers in Scouts.”
So he has decided that something must be done. Sharkman thinks that their local Pack, 170, needs someone to reach out a hand and offer sympathy, and support, and love.
Which is how I came to spend my entire evening helping him write letters, make flyers, and start listing local businesses.
Sharkman, at ten years old, is doing something. He has decided that he wants to put together a fundraiser, asking local businesses to donate items for raffle, and send the proceeds to his brother Pack in Connecticut. This boy has decided that the adults are missing the point, that the kids are the ones who need him, and he’s taking action to be there for what they need.
His to-do list for the next couple of days includes meeting with his Pack leadership (all adults) tonight to get their permission to use a meeting time, asking the church where we meet if we can use their space, and soliciting the items for donation.
He didn’t ask me to do these things. He asked me to help him find a way to do these things, because he knows he’s ten, and somebody needs to be his adult translator.
Being the mother to a kid like that is a humbling, and eye-opening, experience.
He has a calendar, and a schedule, and a list of places to ask for items, and a list of places to ask to publicize for him. Sharkman set the prices of the tickets, and talked through how he wants to set up the drawings, and planned last night how the meeting space would need to be set up.
It didn’t take long at all to piece it together with him in the living room. The leg work will be a little more time-consuming; his business list is up to 50 or so, and that doesn’t include the smaller mom-and-pop places he wants to solicit as well. This project is going to eat up most of his Christmas break – and he’s fine with that.
Because something needs to be done.
There are dead children, from his brotherhood, and the adults are just talking about it. This, as far as he’s concerned, is unacceptable.
Sharkman’s not trying to save the world. He’s not trying to find a way to get rid of the assault weapons that slaughtered those babies. He’s trying to be there for the kids that are connected to him, that he understands. It’s all too easy for him to see the babies from our Pack in the faces of these fallen innocents.
He’s not trying to save the world. He’s trying to make his little corner of it softer, and safer, for the survivors.
How much better would the whole place be, if we could all find that kind of commitment and compassion within ourselves?
So wish him luck tonight, as he seeks permission and support from his Pack leadership. Wish him luck tomorrow, as he starts the scary task of confronting a whole series of adults who have the power to tell him no, to make him have to work harder, or who can make this an incredible, life-changing event for not just one boy, but potentially dozens.
And wish us all luck, in these darkening days, as we search within ourselves for a fraction of the love and generosity that a ten year old boy offers with both hands.