Crossroads suck. You know, the kind of situation where a decision needs to be made and no matter which choice you make, someone is going to be completely frustrated and disappointed. In all likelihood, this is also a milestone that will be reflected upon as a defining moment in BW’s childhood. Frustratingly, the dilemma is becoming an increasingly uncomfortable discussion between Charles and me.
BW is a Cub Scout and he loves everything about it. The reliability of the meeting structure and order, the variety of the activities they participate in, the ceremonial progression from one rank to another, that he can earn badges and the common experience that he is sharing with boys of his own age from his school, around town and all walks of life. Other than soccer, scouts is the one activity that he is consistently passionate about and that he takes a great deal of pride in.
He has also developed a great deal of self-confidence as the result of seeing his badges, his accomplishments. Through his involvement with scouts, building friendships has become less of a struggle that has benefited all aspects of his social life. As a den, his group of friends and their families are some of the best people that we could ever hope to call friends.
But, it’s the scouts. And as an organization, I object to many of their positions, but two of them have given me sleepless nights.
In most other countries, girls are allowed to participate as full members. But not in America. No. In this land of the free and equal, girls are not allowed to participate unless it is a ‘family’ activity. JB has, a number of times, voiced her disappointment at having been born in the wrong country or as the wrong sex. At first it was easy to dismiss as a good old boy’s network, but with each conversation she has pressed me more and more to the point that I’ve become more vocal that, like her, I don’t agree that girl’s aren’t allowed. I’ve told her that she is perfect in every way, but that the Boy Scouts of America won’t let her and other girl’s join because they are afraid of her strength, her mad abilities in art, science, math and English. That NO, just because she doesn’t have a penis, she is not less of a person… Quite the opposite in fact. But still the rejection lingers.
In an effort to help her along with her seemingly second-class citizen viewpoint, I… *sigh*… I am starting up a Girl Scout troop. But it’s going to involve more than selling cookies and sing-a-longs and I hope that in some sense I can do right by her.
But, I agree with her. It isn’t the same. So far – it seems like the cub scouts are a heck of a lot more organized and focused on the growth of the child than the girl scouts are. Comparing activity calenders – to the unindoctrinated eye, girl scouts puts a great part of their focus on selling the cookies whereas scouts puts their focus on developing the boy into a man.
But BW is still a boy. And that is where the dilemma comes from. At the as yet not grown age of eight, BW does not yet understand the concept of ‘homosexual’ vs ‘heterosexual’. He’s heard the term gay in reference to friends, but is blissfully ignorant of the full extend of the modern meaning of the word. As his parents, it is our job, our very challenging and often thankless task of raising him to be the best BW that he can be.
For me that means that he does not disrespect a person due to their color, religion, orientation, social status or education. But scouts doesn’t see it as we do. Of course they teach respect, but not if you happen to fall into the categories of girl, godless or ‘gay’.
Unlike some, I believe that orientation is not a choice, but is in fact, an aspect of who a person is – just as if they were right or left handed. So when I read in the paper that a young man believed so much in the scouts that he stuck with it and worked his tail off to earn the rank of Eagle Scout but was denied this honor due to his orientation and his lack failure in his ‘Duty to God’.
Again, it’s brought the topic to the forefront. In part because I disagree with this position that the Boy Scouts of America has taken and the fear that people who disagree with the BSA position might express their opinions to the only representation of the organization that they see – my little boy who is dutifully selling popcorn to raise money for his den and has no concept or understanding of the controversy. So, whenever the task of escorting him comes up, the conversation is renewed.
As a private organization, the BSA is granted the right to set the standards and positions that they choose. And yes, we have the right to reject those and chose not to participate in their… hate. Even though it is apparent that our Den does not agree with the national organization on this stance. Even though our BW simply loves everything about his group. Since he was able to walk and talk, BW has expressed his love for his country and his desire to do his best to represent what freedom means. (This passion by the way, must come from deep within as neither Charles nor I are overt in our opinions on the matter.)
Neither of my brothers participated in Boy Scouts, and it was never really a past time of people I grew up with, so when BW expressed interest in joining, I approached the situation cautiously with trepidation as I tend to do with organized groups. But Charles, having been a scout himself provided assurance that either BW would naturally leave the group as his interest waned. If it turned out that he developed an interest in it, we would converse with him as he grew older and let him make the decision for himself without feeling undue pressure from either Charles or me.
I’m not sure that I can wait that long. Nor am I sure that he wouldn’t understand that conversation right now. Our last several discussions have been impressively mature with BW expressing his knowledge and opinions with a greater clarity that I could have ever hoped for from a child of his age.
I know that it is an easy and obvious decision for most. But how do you explain to a child that they can no longer participate in something they love and believe in without having them grow up far faster than they should by participating in conversations that should be reserved for adults.
Nearly any experienced parent has said at one time or another that kids grow up so fast, and that their youthful bliss and wonder needs to be enjoyed while it lasts. And, in a way, I’m trying to extend his blissful ignorance for as long as I can. But as I celebrate and provide support for gay friends as they pursue the right to marry, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to celebrate and support something that the boy loves that is not inclusive.
I guess I really am a mean mama.
I wonder if there is a badge for that, ’cause, I think I’m going to earn it.