The things I learned by scouting with my son

If you expect to read about Boy Scouts of America’s political stance on anything, this is not the column. OK, I’ll make one brief political statement at the end, so skip down if you must.

Meanwhile, if you have a boy in elementary school, and if sometimes you’re bewildered about raising a New Millennium son, read on.

My son (who I’ll call DK — short for Dances with Keyboard) is the youngest in a blended family. He has three older siblings, all girls.

Nine years ago, when we joined Cub Scouts, I admit I didn’t know what to expect. My initial goals were to expose DK to outdoor activities and guy-to-guy socializing after school at den meetings. I thought we might end up going camping. (Did we ever! Rain or shine.)

Over time, I learned some things about scouting that I loved.

At first, it might seem like scouting asks a lot from parents. After some private kicking and screaming, I became a den leader, because we needed one. Then I had to go to an official training, which seemed like a bureaucratic imposition. After the training, I was humbled and grateful, because I felt more prepared to lead den meetings.

I had a fear of planning activities, but I quickly learned that I didn’t have to reinvent that wheel. The organization has a magazine with multiple options for meeting plans. Sometimes I thought the suggestions were lame. I was wrong, again. I found myself deeply touched when I learned that modern 9-year-old boys are not, in fact, too sophisticated to sing “Old McDonald” while substituting the sounds of their own pets. That experience alone made the whole adventure worthwhile — and I have had many more eye-opening moments since then.

Scouting operates outside of brand names and product placement. Other than expenses for uniforms, camping equipment or craft materials, the activities suggested in the scouting manual usually involve common household items such as cardboard boxes, tin cans, scissors, soap and string.

Luckily for us, pack 473 had some wonderful leaders. However, shortly after DK crossed over to the Boy Scout troop (at the end of fifth-grade), adult leadership for the Cubs became so thin, it seemed as if the pack might dissolve entirely.

Then Gib Blackman appeared on the scene.

Blackman had been an adult leader of Boy Scout troop 473 for 12 years, and Scoutmaster for 7 years. After his son, Forrest, earned his Eagle rank, Blackman stayed on as Scoutmaster until others came forward to lead the troop. Then he turned his attention back to the local Cub Scout pack.

“I did some research,” Blackman said. “I found out they had a fledgling group of boys that was leaderless. So I said, ‘I don’t have a boy, but one thing I can do — I can be a leader.’” He became Cubmaster, hoping that soon another adult would come forward to replace him. After getting to know the parents, Blackman was confident the group had many potential adult leaders.

One of the dads, Edwin Neill, was an Eagle Scout. He had been looking forward to getting his sons involved in scouting, but was disappointed to find that Moss Haven Elementary area didn’t have a strong pack.

“A group of us muddled through Tiger Cub year,” Neill said. “The boys wanted to continue as Wolves.” (In Cub Scout code, tiger equals first-grade, wolf equals second-grade.) It was during their wolf year that Gib Blackman offered to help with organization.

The small group has enjoyed activities such as camping, archery, BB guns, and Angry Birds. (Intrigued?) Eventually Neill decided to become the new leader of pack 473. Neill and Blackman, who is staying on as committee chair, are now focused on growing the pack. This year they are planning at least two campouts, and as much fun as they can schedule.

Promised political statement: I know people involved in scouting from every political stripe — left, right, and sideways. Scouting brings us together.