When my sons came home from school one day in September, raving about how they wanted to join Boy Scouts and learn all this cool stuff that a presentation that day had featured, I didn’t need much convincing to allow it. I was a Girl Scout. My daughter is a Girl Scout. Logically, I figured Boy Scouts, and thereby Cub Scouts, would be basically the same thing. I located a troop (Den? Pack?) and the leader (Master?) soon returned my email to tell me all about the year’s activities. It sounded amazing, so we signed up. I was so wrong.
At the first meeting, I began to get the inkling that I’d bitten off more than I could chew. All talk was excitement over an upcoming camping trip. It sounded amazing to me, and I was so excited that my 7-year-old would get to go camping for the first time. When they came up to talk to me after the meeting, I realized they expected me to go on the camping trip, too. Oh my. No. Why did nobody tell me this? Parents aren’t required to go along on Girl Scouts camping trips at any age, so it never occurred to me that it would be any different in Cub Scouts. So because I don’t own the first piece of camping gear, and my personal idea of hell quite closely resembles spending a weekend sleeping on the ground among 7-year-olds, we opted out.
For a while, going to the meetings wasn’t too bad. They’re only an hour, and while being in a room full of rambunctious kids after I’ve been at work all day, and spent the past hour and a half commuting back to my part of the city is a bit awful, it was workable since it was only for an hour, and we always get tacos afterward.
Then it became apparent that I was dropping the ball on this part, too. “Is he ready to do his Wolf badge requirements?” they asked me at the last meeting. Shit, I haven’t even bought the book, or the uniform, or any of that. By the time I get back to this part of the city, the store that sells that stuff is closed, and on weekends, I barely leave my apartment because I’m so exhausted! Plus, I only have two hours after picking up the boys from after school care, before it’s their bedtime. So sometime between cooking dinner, eating dinner, cleaning up dinner, making sure everyone gets a bath, making my quite possibly dyslexic second grader struggle through his spelling words, and getting everything is ready for the next day, I somehow have to do Cub Scout homework, too. This is getting to be a bit much. I’m only one person.
I realized that over the past two months, we’ve skipped more meetings than we’ve attended. I don’t even open the pack emails anymore because it’s always some activity that there is no way I will have the time and energy for. I can never just drop them off to participate with the troop. It’s always required that I be there, too. How do people do this? We are only attending the meeting tonight because Pinewood Derby is the subject, and since they’re going to their dad’s for a week over Christmas, I thought maybe he could help them build the car. He likes that sort of thing, and it would allow them to participate in an activity that doesn’t require sleeping outside. If not for that, I’d skip this one, too. I’m exhausted, and I don’t want to go, but I get tacos afterward, and my sons will love making Pinewood Derby cars, so I’m going.
Now, none of this is anything against the organization. I can see how much a lot of people enjoy it. Some families really enjoy camping. Some of these families have been friends for years. A lot of the dads were scouts when they were younger, too, so they’re enjoying passing this on to their sons. For me, though, it has been a grand endeavor in biting off more than I can chew. I have a demanding career. I commute. Their father lives eight hours away and cannot help me with these things, even though he would probably love to. I am starting to think Cub Scouts is not for us. I just hope that my sons will not be too disappointed when we do not participate next year.
If I could go back in time and tell September Me a few things before signing that membership application, I would start with the following:
- They will expect you to go camping.
- The basic assumption is that you have a lot of family in town who can help you sell really overpriced popcorn.
- Just because you can make the meetings after work does not mean you should. How exhausted are you when you get home already? Now sit in a room with 20 rambunctious boys for an hour after your commute, and before you can go home.
- There will be homework.
I think we can officially say I have failed at Cub Scouts. I’m not even ashamed.