Fly Like An Eagle, Part Two

Something interesting has happened over the last two years or so: J has grown less interested in scouting than he used to be. Much less. As in, he has decided to leave scouting altogether after his final high adventure trip this summer (to the Florida Keys, for snorkeling!).

Jim and I saw this development coming in the early stages, and did our best to try and get J reinvigorated with scouting and all that it entails, but he just wasn’t having it.

We thought that maybe, if he decided to do the work involved with achieving Eagle, it might be a great way to breathe new life into this extracurricular activity that was becoming more work than fun, so we had many conversations with him about whether he wanted to do that, like his brother did. D earned his Eagle rank in 2009.

We had told him that he didn’t have to “go for” Eagle (we certainly wouldn’t love him any less!), and that we wouldn’t pressure him. After truly giving it serious consideration, J decided against it. It was his decision, and we honored it as such.

What’s been amazing–and sad–is the reaction others (especially those involved in scouting, not just in our troop, but elsewhere) have had upon learning of J’s decision. He has been interrogated by other adults on the logic of his decision. Others have tried to guilt and shame him into changing his mind: “You’ve come so far…why ‘give it all up’ NOW???”

Jim and I have strong feelings about this: pushing a boy to Eagle. To be completely honest, in all of our years involved in scouting, we have met several boys who should not have become Eagle Scouts–for many reasons but especially because they had adults around them that did much of the behind-the-scenes legwork. In certain situations, something that is as special and rare as a young man doing the work to get this rank gets watered down because of the touchy-feely attitudes of many of the parents of today, wanting their kids to have it all (or “be it all”), with little regard for doing things according to the guidelines.

Fact: the percentage of boys in scouting who achieve the Eagle rank is only about 4%, give or take a percentage or two, depending on the source. That statistic says something in itself. It is hard work to become an Eagle, and it is truly one of the biggest achievements a young man can tackle. But it should be the young man who does the work, not anyone else. The rank is all about showing the characteristics of a Leader, and for him to be pushed and prodded into it by his parents or anyone else would miss the mark.

Back to J.

Sometimes I think that he might regret his decision someday. He might look back on this year, when he had a girlfriend and went to guitar lessons and had regular “band” practice with a few friends and got his license and cleaned the salon where I work and kept his grades up and played lacrosse, and he might think, “Wow, I wish I would’ve wanted to make the time–or give something else up–to work on my Eagle rank.” And he might not. When you boil it all down, it’s his decision.

And you know what? It doesn’t mean that he won’t soar to great heights like his brother. In fact, his steadfast belief that the decision he made for himself was exactly the right one, even as others try to convince him that he made a mistake, shows me that he already knows how to lead.


©2011 Suburban Scrawl


  • Momo Fali

    You are a good mommy.

    I have been dealing with this myself, because Ali isn't thrilled with golfing, but I keep telling her she will thank me one day for making her stay in. She wanted to quit softball two years ago, but we told her to give it one more year and now she loves it. I feel like an individual sport, like golf, is a real asset when you're older…so I'm making her stick with it.

    And, I've been upset with my mom for years because she didn't make me stick with piano lessons. After five years of lessons, she let me quit. Of course, there was begging and pleading on my part, but I still wish I had been forced into continuing. What a great outlet that would be! I guess I'll just have to stick to my laptop keys.

  • Lisa Noel

    I agree with your decision. I tried a lot of things until I finally found my niche in high school. I think his reget, if it comes, will not outwiegh the resentment you could deal w/if you push too hard.

  • kat

    He has contemplated and made his decision and he's standing up for it. Even if he were to regret it if he's older (which I don't believe) he has done something very grown up. He's made a decision and is dealing with the consequences, which if you ask me, is what you do or have to do in real life. He's always going to have your support and I love that you are merely guiding and not pushing him. Don't konw if my incoherent ramblings make any sense but in my defense, it is very early here for heavy thoughts 🙂

  • Dawn

    First off, I'm actually proud of him for doing his own thing and not trying to follow in his brother's footsteps 'just because'. You and Jim are doing the right thing by not pushing him.

    Scott and I have had this discussion on many occasions. So many boys are pushed through the ranks of Eagle and the requirements are so watered down for some kids. I would get exasperated with Nick for dragging his feet, but I can say, like Dylan, that his Eagle was 'all him.' We supported him, but he did the work. Period.

  • Anonymous

    J must know what he wants in life and I agree if eagles is not one you need to let him fly. He can only know what life will bring by trial and error. He is a very smart person and the way you have raised both boys I know he will make the right choices for himself.

    You can only guide not do for your children (even though you want it to go one way they may not feel that is the way they want to go).

    So let this one go.

    Grandma W

  • Mom24

    Good for you. Seriously. It makes me really sad that Jason quit at Life, I know he could have reached Eagle, but, like you, we felt it really needed to be him.

    I know a boy here whose family has a foundation and his Eagle project is being mostly handled by the foundation and the adults who do the same project all the time. It makes me sad to see the Eagle rank being so watered down like that.

    He may regret it, he may not, but there's really nothing you can do about it either way.

  • Tara R.

    More parents should think like you. If takes something away from such a prestigious achievement, if the parents do the majority of the work. J will find his place and do wondrous things. I do know it's hard sometimes to they them go, and make decisions we as parents thing they will regret.

  • Heather E

    You are such an excellent mom. I feel for him that he is getting that kind of reaction from others. He is a teen and (almost) grown up enough to make the decision himself!

  • SurprisedMom

    J will remember your parental support when he looks back. You guys are great parents.

    Sometimes I wonder about parents who push their almost adult kids into something and then do all of the work for the kid. What message does that send?

  • Cincy

    Something similar just came up at our last Court of Honor. The kids are blowing through their badges too fast and the scoutmaster is adamant about slowing things down. (They're only in 7th grade! I don't believe they are truly accomplishing anything.) Your son is really old enough to decide and good for you for not forcing the issue.

  • Mrs4444

    This is brilliant; I love it. Your post upholds the integrity and value of the Eagle rank and demonstrates confidence and respect in your son. I appreciate both.