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