Tuesday, April 3, 2012

My New Scout Parent Memories......

Leaving for 1st campout
I will never forget what it was like when my son joined his Boy Scout Troop. Just two weeks prior to his first meeting I had been the Webelos II Den Leader and now with giddy excitement I had changed over to a Boy Scout uniform and was ready to get busy! Adding to this was the fact that I had also recently completed my Woodbadge training and had a head super full of Scouting knowledge. At least that is what I thought.

I got to the chaotic meeting and it did not take me very long to realize that in his Scout troop there was actually very little for me or the other new adults to do. Looking around it seemed that everyone had known each other for years and each somehow knew exactly what was going on.
Dang he was cute new Scout
Add to this that as a member of the “New Scout Patrol” my son was no longer with me as he was when I was his den leader. Instead he was in a room every meeting night being taught by some scraggly looking 14 year old kids. I would peak in the window and from the outside it looked like nothing really was getting done. Certainly it was a far cry from the organized and structured meetings I had been running. 
Fast forward a few weeks and it was time for the first campout. It was a cold and blistery March weekend and there was no question that I would be coming along. I remember pulling my rather large duffle bag out of the car compete with a wide variety of gear and a really nice inflatable mattress.
Oddly I suddenly felt a little like I did as a fraternity pledge way back in college. I was in middle of an organization with a long history, strong culture and rules about things that I simply did not understand. Sure there had been a lengthy parent orientation meeting with a multipage document but suddenly I was once again feeling like I knew nothing.
I also really wanted to spend time with my son and to be honest it was hard when the kind Assistant Scoutmaster for the New Scouts gently reminded me that weekend that I was to step back and let my son learn on his own. His advice was to just stick with the Adult Patrol and keep my distance. Over the next several months he had this nice little talk with me often.

It took me a little time but eventually I began to figure out what I was there for as an adult. My role as a new Scout dad was to provide transportation to campouts, eat amazing food cooked by some dutch oven wizards, drink a lot of coffee, relax in a comfy camp chair, do whatever duty I was assigned on the roster and on Sunday safely transport the Scouts I had taken to the campout back home. That was pretty much it. Turns out that I was learning probally as much as my son during this sponge time. It was great just to soak things in.

Even though I had been there the whole weekend, the car ride back was my time to find out from my son how the campout had gone for him. Except for that time when he got dehydrated and vomited  all night, his stories were always animated, funny and mostly fun.

The stick reflects more adventure

Now here I am four years later and that enthusiastic fifth grade kid of mine has grown into a maturing freshman in high school, Life Scout, and Senior Patrol leader of his Troop. From my position of distance, I have seen the Scout program work its magic in helping him grow as a leader and as a young man.
Each year now I see new parents come into the Troop and recognize quickly the perplexed looks and I remember clearly what it was like for me. I want them to understand that they are not alone!
The key to survival is the first year is to understand that you are not alone with your feelings. Also understand that there is a why for everything and there are no stupid questions. Ask! Ask! Ask! The Adult leadership of the Troop is there to help you as much as they are to help the Scout.

The best way to feel part of the Troop as an adult is to join the Troop on campouts and enjoy some time just soaking things in and getting to know everyone. You will find quickly that the adults are a bit of family. Like any family they have quirks and conflicts but ultimately share common values and a common goal--- to see the boys benefit from the program.
Not a camper? Hang out with the adults that are around on meeting night and ask questions. Want to dig even deeper? Register as a committee member, attend those meetings and volunteer for a position. Show leadership and a skill for mentoring and the Scoutmaster may even ask you to be one of his assistants eventually. Heck want to really understand? Take the excellent training offered by the BSA and sign up for Woodbadge too!

Do these things and I promise you and your son will have years of enjoyment, learning and adventure.
Yes it would be easier to find a Troop that perhaps is adult run, adult organized and does everything that in our adult minds makes sense. Go there your son will miss his chance to fully benefit from the intent of the program. It would be even easier to not to be in Scouting at all.

Instead I suggest you let the program be the program. You will find a niche and you will make a difference. For now, drink some coffee, drive some kids to a campout and enjoy some great food cooked by some nutty people in Scout shirts. You will never regret that you did.

Oh and PS. Don’t worry about having nothing to do. As I write this I am on my fifth day in a row of Scouting fun. Enjoy that first few months of rest. You are going to need it.

YIS (Yours in Scouting)



  1. Excellent! My Scouting experience has been much the same...

  2. Well stated. Thanks for taking the time to share your experience.