The hope Scouting has brought to my family
My 11 year old son lives a life of challenge. He must go through each day knowing that he has a brother who will never be the brother he wants. My oldest son has aspergers syndrome. This causes him to be obsessive compulsive, engage in repetitve behaviors and have a very difficult time carrying on conversations. My second child has been rather tolerant until recently. He has become a tween, and everything is "annoying" and "boring". His brother, of course is definitely both of those things.
We have our middle child on a soccer team and now a basketball team. He does not go to the same school his brother goes to. These things help, but they are just not enough. He needs to survive this situation by growing up faster and being more responsible than he should have to be at his age. The solution, I hope is to learn and live by 12 points of the Scout Law. Trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. The rules are simple enough and if society followed them, things might be a bit calmer in our world.
I grew up in a scouting family. At age 6, my oldest brother wanted to be a Cub Scout. He had no leader in his Pack, so my father, who had never been a scout himself, agreed to take on the challenge. My second brother joined up and thus began a long career for my father and our family in the world of scouting. Both of my brothers are proud Eagle Scouts. My father is a leader who is able to say that he has lead many young man towards a better life through scouting. He has awards, but that is not what is important to him. It is making a difference in someone's life. My nephew just became an Eagle Scout and my cousin is one as well. So when my son started to act out, it seemed like the natural place to turn for guidance.
Scouting is more than putting on a uniform and going to a meeting with your friends. It is cooperative learning. It is teamwork, It is stepping forward and being a leader when all of your friends might stand back and walk away. It is working to make your community a better place. It is recognizing and accepting challenge and opportunity everyday of your life.
Daniel started out as a Weblo and was a bit of a goofball. He joked around, his shirt was untucked all of the time, he was often disheveled. But still he went, never missing a meeting, working each week towards activity pins and belt loops. Soon, it started to sink in. He finished his Weblo days and when he crossed over to Boy Scouts, he had earned in two years, every activity pin and his Arrow of Light badge which he could carry over to his Scout uniform. But more important than the pins and badges, he was growing and learning that life was not all about him, he was part of something bigger, more important.
As a Boy Scout, he quickly worked towards becoming a Tenderfoot, his first true earned rank. How proud he was that day when he was presented that patch. He also created neckerchief slides for his entire patrol at his grandfather's workbench, denying video games and television for several afternoons while they sanded, glued, painted and sealed these slides. If he is presented with choice now of working on a wood project, being outdoors on a camping trip, going fishing, practicing archery, boating, being involved with a troop event or sitting around playing video games, he would no longer choose the video games as he would before he joined scouting.
This past summer he went to camp. It was the first time he would go away from our family. He would not see or speak to us for a full week while he camped. I would like to say it went smoothly, but it did not. He was quite homesick in the evenings. However, he planned meals, cooked, earned leatherwork and wilderness survival merit badges and had a good time. He learned that he was able to manage without us. That he had coping skills, that he alone was accountable for his actions, since mom and dad were no where around to "clean up" any mess he made. He grew, he matured. He missed us, but cannot wait to go back to camp again, and this time, I believe he will not be homesick.
He is still irritated by his brother's behavior, after all he is only 11 years old. But I have more hope now. I can just point to the scout law and remind him of how we live and he is able to catch himself if he is straying. He is trying to accept what we have in our house. It is early, but my hope is that he will come to the understanding that his brother is not a burden but a blessing. We all would like to get to that place of acceptance. He and I have started working on the Disabilities Merit Badge which involves understanding people with disabilities and their place in society. If only the entire world would earn this badge!
Our sons are growing. Scouting is helping them and us. Challenge and Opportunity are encountered daily, one must seize and act upon them. My son just earned the aviator merit badge. While he was up in the airplane, the pilot allowed him to take control of the plane. Talk about challenge and opportunity! How many 11 year olds can say they have flown an airplane? So there is hope. For him and for us.