About two years ago, my son told me that he really wanted to sign up for Boy Scouts. I reached out to three different troops in my area, with little-to-no response. His interest in scouting continued to grow, despite the fact that none of his friends or family were in scouts, and despite the fact that we couldn’t find an active troop seemingly anywhere. After a year of sporadic inquiries, including an inquiry to the district itself, I learned of an active troop that came highly recommended by my mother (my niece attends Girl Scout meetings within the same troop hall). The troop meets two towns over, which requires a short drive on Baltimore’s beltway, during rush hour, which, in case you were not aware, sucks. Their meetings, however, are held on Friday nights, and very close to shopping and restaurants, which makes the drive less of an issue.
My son attended a meeting as a guest, and I attended an introductory meeting for parents. The meetings, both for the parents and the scouts, were impressive. The scouts worked on a scout related skill, they formed teams (patrols) with active youth leadership, and they played a game before closing. The parents’ meeting included an introductory video that was produced by the scouts and included footage and photos of their camping and “high adventure” trips. There were several troop leaders present to answer questions, and all showed a truly vested interest in the troop’s success and experiences. My son loved the first meeting, and the rest is history… but I’m going to tell you about it anyway.
After the first meeting we were handed a rather large folder with all sorts of information. Information on troop and district contacts, volunteering information, safety regulations and background check information for adults, health and physical eval forms, applications, etc. It was a little overwhelming, and I felt like I was applying for a new job, but we made it through each requirement and appreciated the thoroughness of the BSA (Boys Scouts of America). We had a shopping list that included strict uniform regulations, a lengthy camping checklist, and a first aid kit. We found the closest Scout Shop and dropped a pretty penny there, getting most everything on the list at the Scout Shop. While the Scout Shop does support scouting, not everything needs to be BSA branded, and you may save some money by shopping around. That being said, the BSA brand items are high quality, and not a bad investment.
My son received a Boy Scout Handbook at his first official meeting as a welcome gift from the troop. After looking over the handbook and the rank requirements, we were both very enthusiastic and motivated to knock out his rank requirements as quickly as possible. We (meaning me, mostly) feverishly studied merit badges and their requirements, rank advancement requirements, camping tricks and tips, etc. so that he could be an Eagle Scout by next week – if he played his cards right. In reality, it was not until all of the excitement and ambition wore off, and the pace slowed, that my son became a true scout.
After the first few months, and first few camping trips, we both settled down and allowed scouting to just happen. I stopped packing his bag for camping trips. If he forgets something, he will learn a lesson from it. I stopped planning, preparing, and being overly motherly to him, at least when it comes to scouts. I stopped insisting he shower on camping trips, and accepted that during scout trips, they are men, and real men apparently don’t shower or wear deodorant for days on end. When I stopped doing all of those things for him, he started doing them for himself. Well, except for the deodorant and shower thing. He still prefers to ferment for a day or two.
Now, a year and a half later, when I look at my son, as he hops out of the car and dutifully steps into his scout meeting, I see a young man. I see someone who is caring, helpful, tolerant, and increasingly more responsible. I believe that his boy scout troop has helped foster those qualities in him. I do believe that he has had those qualities all along, but he has grown personally with each adventure that scouting has brought. He has also had some amazing experiences, that only scouting can bring, with many more to come.
I believe that finding the right troop is of the utmost importance, and if your current troop doesn’t feel right, or isn’t meeting your expectations, you should find another troop that does. Had we joined one of the other local troops, the same troops that were not responsive when we inquired about joining, well, it is probably safe to assume that my son might have had trouble finding guidance from leadership within that troop when he needed it. His current troop goes on a camping trip every month, and regularly schedules volunteer opportunities and “high adventure” trips, such as Philmont, Seabase, and the Northwest tier. Next year, his troop is spending 2 weeks touring New England. An active troop will keep your son engaged, entertained, and challenged.
There is so much to learn and experience through scouting. I am thankful that my son has shown a continued interest in it, and so glad we found such a great troop to join.
If you are new to scouting, here are a few helpful links:
- Meritbadge.org is extremely helpful in learning the requirements for rank advancement, awards, and merit badge requirements. We use this site more than any other resource, with the exception of the Scout Handbook.
- Scouting.org is the website for the Boy Scouts of America, and it contains loads of information for scouts, parents, and leaders. You can also find your district’s page here, which will contain information on local events, resources, etc.
- Scoutstuff.org is the official scout shop for the BSA. Here you will find everything from uniforms and patches, to first aid and camping supplies. You can also purchase merit badge pamphlets and educational books and ebooks here.