Our guest post today comes from Maggie Judi, who is a 30 year old mother of four children, and the wife of one army dentist. When she’s not wiping tears, answering four questions simultaneously, and folding Mt. McKinley sized piles of laundry, Maggie loves to hike, run, read, and of course, write. She very much enjoys the chaos and hilarity of motherhood. Maggie writes about the perils of motherhood in Alaska with a sunny and humorous spin at magsandmike.blogspot.com
Part of the job description for motherhood includes driving one’s children “hither and yon” to various enriching activities. I’ve acquired soccer mom stickers, and dancing ballerina decals to plaster proudly on the back window of my van. Three boys and one girl in my minivan demand varied activities, and although each kid only may choose one sport, we also add in music lessons and the newest addition, scouts. Soccer supplies skills in teamwork, sportsmanship, and dribbling; tumbling: coordination and grace. Now that I’ve got myself a cub scout, we’re exploring a new genre of after school activities. It seems a bit overwhelming, with all kinds of merit badges and requirements, but I’m hoping to fit Wolf scouts into the schedule.
When I was a four-year-old Sunbeam, I spent a lot of time playing hooky. I was the lone girl in a class of five rambunctious boys, and developed a knack for escaping the treachery of sharing time for the safety of my mother’s company. I usually ended up exploring the church, but inevitably someone would find one of my exasperated parents who took me into their reluctant custody. One particular Sunday, Dad found me on his way to be set apart for a new calling. The bishop smiled and told me to have a seat. I climbed onto a black upholstered chair and let my legs dangle off the edge. The quiet of the room broke into my imaginative reverie, the softness of the spirit making itself apparent. The Bishop and counselors set my dad apart to be the deacon’s quorum adviser, which included being the Scoutmaster. They said a small and simple prayer to help a young father tackle a demanding calling, but it was also a spiritual milestone for a small girl struggling to find her place in church. The mantle my dad received would remain in place 15 years and change innumerable lives, including my own.
And so began my education in all things scout-related. Most summer weekends growing up we were inundated with keyed up twelve-year-old boys, itching to be let loose in the forest. The treachery of sharing time suddenly seemed like small potatoes. My sisters and brother and I received nicknames, and noogies. A twelve-year-old is infinitely better equipped to tease a little girl than her kindergarten counterpart. Our lawn was usually littered with camping remains; olive green socks, dented canteens, backpacks and bedrolls. As Scoutmaster, Dad took it upon himself to haul tweens “hither and yon” across the vast mountainous and desert landscape of San Juan County, Utah. They hiked and camped, argued and learned, sunburned and swam, and all of them thought my dad was the greatest. They called him Mr. B, and he helped them along the scout path of merit bags to the ultimate accomplishment: The Eagle Court of Honor. Over the years they morphed from gangly, scrawny boys to strong and confident young men.
One of the favorite scout activities of the year became the redrock biking trip. Dad would pack up the boys and their mountain bikes and drive towards Arches National Park. People come from all over the world to ride the scarlet trails of Moab those young scouts could ride. A mountain bike for dad was never in the budget, but he always had a buddy to borrow from and the slickrock trail became a yearly adrenaline-pumping tradition. One year his troops secretly raised money to buy him a highly-rated mountain bike. I’ll never forget the gaggle of boys presenting it to their humbled scout master in the living room of our house. Tears rolled slowly down Dad’s weathered cheeks, it was a tender moment for years of sacrificing time with his own family to mold the sons of another.
Everything I know about being a scout mom I learned by watching mine. Mom always encouraged Dad to keep going. Fifteen years of camping can get old. She told him once, “You never know which one of these boys might grow up to marry your daughter.” My sisters and I didn’t marry a scout molded under dad’s tutelage, but we all followed our mother’s example of choosing an Eagle Scout. I think of her hard work, not just for her son but decades of deacons. She rolled sleeping bags and patched backpacks. She made an extra lunch or two for the scout who would inevitably claim he didn’t know he was supposed to bring one. She kept my brother going towards his Eagle. Even when he dragged his feet and procrastinated, she never let up. I don’t remember her complaining or being upset by any of it. She must have known her part in the greater picture.
Of the many things I learned about scouting, the foremost idea in my mind is this formulated recipe: take one obnoxious boy, coat generously with sunscreen, toss him into the wilderness with two adult leaders and lots of his friends, make sure to occasionally lose him, teaching him to pray in scary situations. Add a large helping of silly scout songs, dutch oven potatoes, and a dash of freezing nearly to death in a pup tent and Wal-mart sleeping bag. Don’t forget to omit bathing for at least a week. If the recipe is followed correctly, a mother can expect to receive back a teenage boy who has accomplished something rather remarkable. We’ll call him an Eagle Scout.
So, I buy the $25.00 cub scout shirt (a little big so it lasts longer), and a wolf book.It will require lots of reading, goal-setting, gentle nudging, reminding, and maybe some threatening, to finish. I also know first-hand that it will be worth the investment.
Today my eight year old son pinned a small tie tack to a simple ribbon hanging loosely around my neck. It had a little bobcat on it. His first goals realized and first reward earned. The pin is for me as a thank-you for helping him. This help mostly coming in the form of driving him “hither and yon” to pack meetings. I take in this moment when his arms and legs are skinny and awkward, when he stumbles a little during his first flag ceremony. I think of the sunburns, and prayers, and also of the leaders who’ll be molding him. I imagine him morphing into a stronger, confident, and spiritual kid. I wonder if all those lessons on honesty and integrity will seep into my everyday actions as well. Can scouts make a mom a better mom? Will I mature along with Quinton, will my spiritual arms become leaner and stronger? I think of my Dad, the many weekends we went without him. The scout paraphernalia on the lawn, the nicknames teasing scouts gave us, and the admiration in their eyes when they were about to embark on another adventure with Mr. B. I think of all this and I am grateful to know what scouts can do for a boy, and maybe I’ll come to know what it can do for his mother.