By Guest Blogger Jenny B.
Scouting is for anybody.
My son and I are living proof. We experience what’s great about Scouting every day, but there is one day in particular that embodied everything I hoped to find in an extracurricular activity for him. Neither of us likes to draw attention to ourselves, so hopefully he’ll forgive me for this. I think sharing our story might help another family find their place the way Scouting has helped us find ours.
I’ll start with how we got into Scouting.
Last year, a neighbor suggested that I consider getting Wesley, then 8 years old, involved in Cub Scouts. The suggestion came at an opportune moment. I wanted something new for Wesley to do, something that allowed him to interact with someone other than me and the iPad. But, I was hesitant to put Wesley in a situation that could potentially be disastrous.
Let me back up.
Wesley is a special needs child. He was born with a genetic disorder called, DiGeorge Syndrome. With a communication barrier, social apprehension and high anxiety he hadn’t thrived in other group activities. Sports hadn’t been working out. Wesley was playing soccer at the time and the pressure of competition exacerbated, rather than relieved, his anxieties. I worried that Scouts would be more of the same—boys my son’s age pressuring him and wondering aloud why he couldn’t keep up.
However, I decided that Wesley and I would attend an upcoming Scouts open house—it couldn’t hurt to at least see what it was all about. I retained some apprehension after that night but I signed Wesley up anyway. I refused—and still refuse to this day—to let the fact that my son is different keep him from experiencing the good that life has to offer. I’ll be honest with you; it was kind of a rough start. But the pack leader—and most importantly, the other boys—didn’t give up on Wesley. I knew it was worth it the night that Wesley was chosen to be The Denner.
For those who aren’t familiar with Scouts, The Denner is one of the most important youth leadership positions. In Cub Scouts, boys are split up into packs, which are then divided into smaller, more closely-knit groups called dens. Periodically, the den elects a Denner to lead the pledge of allegiance and opening ceremony for the meeting. This boy also gets to wear a special gold cord on their uniform.
Wesley was chosen. This kind of recognition is special for any parent, but it was paramount for me. My son was nonverbal for the longest time, and is just now learning to express himself in that way. He may not have been able to say the pledge, and he may have needed to be accompanied by another scout, but to see him up there in uniform, standing on his own two feet, was a watershed moment for us. I know how much courage that took. A boy who once cowered behind me whenever anyone paid any attention to him now stood at the front of the room with all eyes turned to him.
That was the day I knew Scouting had made a difference for my son. He was part of a pack now, part of a den. He had a leader who recognized his differences, but still knew he could succeed. He had other boys to support him, to raise him up and value him for exactly who he is.
We are continuing in Scouts this year, and although this blog is much more about what Scouts has done for my son, I’d also like to share that I am now a pack leader for Pack 934.
As a single mom, I am singlehandedly responsible for all bread-winning and parenting, so any quality time I can get with Wesley is priceless. When you play both roles on your own, there’s only so much time left over after getting your child ready for school, working all day, homework, chores, dinner, etc. Back when we tried sports, I spent most of that time on the sidelines. Now, I’m in the thick of things. I get to watch my son grow from the perspective of both mom and leader. I also get to witness as he learns skills and values from the wonderful male examples set by other Scout leaders.
I’m a police officer, so you could say I’m pretty comfortable in male-dominated spaces. But even had I not been, Scouting would have welcomed my desire to get more involved. Scouting may exist to serve and encourage our sons, but it’s by no means a “boys’ club.” I want to be there for Wesley, but I also want to help and encourage other families—women and single moms especially—who may be searching for a place to let their son feel safe. Scouting lets me serve my family and my community, and I really want to thank the organization for that.
Find a Pack or Troop Near You!
It’s never too late to join a Cub Scout or Boy Scouts unit near you and fall is a great time to join! Cub Scouts is for boys in first through fifth grades and Boy Scouts is for boys ages 11-18. You can join at any age for either program and don’t need to have been a Cub Scout to join Boy Scouts.
To find a Cub Pack or Scout Troop in your neighborhood visit www.BeAScout.org or call the Old Hickory Council at 336-760-2900.
*Sponsored by the Old Hickory Council Boy Scouts