Saturday, November 12, 2011

On Merit Badges

I am an Eagle Scout.  I am "proud" of being so for just about as long as it takes for me to remember that if it wasn't for my mother's encouragement, prodding, and not-so-subtle insistence, I wouldn't be one.  So it is that I have a fairly long history with the Boy Scouts of America.  While a Boy Scout, I went on more campouts than I can remember, attended the National Boy Scout Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia; and even went so far as to keep going with earning merit badges until I had earned an Eagle Palm after getting my Eagle.

That said, I was always on the "scout" side of the Boy Scout program.  More recently, though, I've been more involved in the "leader" side of the program.  A decade back, I was asked to help with the 11-year-old scouts in my ward, where I was specifically tasked with the objective to help the boys under my charge reach the rank of 1st Class before turning 12.  That was my charge, and I took it very seriously.  I am once again "proud" of the fact that many of those boys that came under my wing at that time continued to pursue scouting until they, too, became Eagle Scouts.  Once again, this pride remains with me only as long as it takes for me to remember that it is the boys who accomplished that feat, not me.

So it is that my oldest son is now formally a Boy Scout, having reached the mighty age of 12.  Having completed the requirements for his First Class, he is now entering the wonderful world of merit badges.  He has recently been attending some events sponsored by the stake -- something called a "Merit Badge Midway" and other merit badge workshops sponsored on Thursday nights.   At these events, he can complete most (if not all) of the requirements for the merit badges he works on.  So far he has completed 4 merit badges, and he's only been working on them for a few months.

This mode of scouting, namely the mode where the focus moves away from a checklist of skills to be learned (knot tying, first aid, outdoor cooking, etc.) and instead moves towards earning merit badges, seems to suit him particularly well.  It certainly is a much less stressful thing on my wife, who previously was always poking and prodding him to do the tasks for the lower ranks.  She is delighted that he is now moving into this realm where he must take more personal responsibility for advancing in rank, and even more delighted that he seems to be up to the task.

As for me, my previous experience with the 11-year-old scouts mostly ended at 1st Class, and I only dabbled in helping the boys earn merit badges, something that at the time I didn't enjoy at all.  Now, however, I'm having a great time.  As I'm working with the 12- and 13-year-olds as the Assistant Scoutmaster, I am enjoying pretty much everything -- the planning, the training of the boys, the camping, and the encouraging of the boys to get the merit badges.  I never thought I'd actually like doing this, and yet I do.

I'm getting a kick out of constantly asking my son, "So, what else do you have to do for that merit badge?" and him responding with a well-timed roll of the eyes and a grumble as he trundles off to get the binder with his merit badge paperwork.  I'm of the opinion that these boys should finish with their Eagle before they turn 14, as I recall how difficult it was to finish things up when I was 15-turning-16.  Hopefully my son can pull that off, but again, the best part about this whole thing?  It's now on his shoulders, not mine.

After all, I already have my Eagle (thanks, Mom!).

(Irony noted ...)

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