Stories and thoughts about family and life

The Eagle Has Landed

on April 19, 2016

When Lucas (Luke to us now, most of the time) was a first grader, we went to an informational meeting about Cub Scouts.  Louis had been a Boy Scout (an Eagle), but I think he was trying not to put that onto Lucas.  By the end of the evening, a group had formed, and Lucas was gung-ho to get started.

As we finished that first year, he wanted to take a year off and wasn’t sure he wanted to keep going, but by the end of that year he was ready to go back and we’ve been Scout parents ever since.

Scouting has taught Lucas a lot, and things way beyond knot tying and pitching a tent or starting a fire.  He is still learning all the time, too, which is what I love.  You see, when we changed schools in 4th grade, Lucas barely spoke anymore.  He was withdrawing to a place where he was truly alone.  Scouts was one of the few places we saw him still engaging with his friends and communicating.  Changing schools and having a new environment with some fantastic teachers helped him, but I also credit Scouting for keeping him engaged in something which ultimately helped him find his voice.

Scouting taught us (especially me) a lot too.  Sure, Louis knew the Scout stuff and could pitch a tent and help the boys with merit badges and all those things.  But it also brought us together in a different way as a family.   Brennan is 23 months younger than Lucas, but he went on every outing and kept up the pace (for the most part) with boys older and faster than he was. It taught us about being willing to undertake the adventure, and using that time to build relationships.  It taught us that little setbacks are sometimes big opportunities to learn about resourcefulness, and it gave us time together doing some incredible things.  I’ve personally learning that OCD and Scouting don’t necessarily mix, but that’s been okay too because that’s why my boys were blessed with another parent who is laid back and more chilled than their mother is.  He has learned that “Be Prepared” doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing to everyone, and sometimes it’s our kid that’s going to screw that up the worst.

When Louis was offered the opportunity to be our Scoutmaster, I talked this over with my boys.  I wanted to know what they really thought, and if they would be turned off Scouting by having to have their own dad as the leader.  I was amazed, and brought nearly to tears, when they both jumped at the opportunity and when Lucas said “he has made Scouting fun for me and other boys deserve that too.”

I didn’t know what to think when Lucas started talking about “beating Dad to Eagle.”  He was 12 and I was fairly certain he didn’t understand the whole scope of what that meant.  An Eagle project is (and should be) a huge undertaking.  It truly tests the boy’s ability to lead and structure the particular tasks of an overall project.  As 12 began to turn into 13, though, he became more and more committed to trying to beat his dad.  Dad achieved Eagle shortly after his  14th birthday, and Lucas had set his sights on beating that.

By fall break two years ago we had been through a couple of organizations investigating potential projects.  The only caveat his dad and I gave him was that we wanted it to be something truly challenging, and not just something he could throw together over a weekend.  Lucas wanted to do something which involved animals (which also touched my heart).  After the first couple of attempts didn’t pan out, Lucas asked his dad to take him to the zoo over fall break and he met with leadership there and explained what his goals were.

I will never forget the afternoon he came bounding into my office after the meeting.  He presented me with a list of ten potential projects the zoo had listed for him.  They had picked the area they felt needed immediate attention, and asked him to do any of the things on the list.  Lucas was so excited at the prospect of the whole thing, he proudly informed me we would be completing seven of the ten projects, and turning it into one larger scope effort.  He met with various dads in our group and used their professional expertise to plan out what he needed, began his paperwork, and we started fundraising.

The project wasn’t without its challenges, as fundraising took longer than we had expected, and a couple of organizations who had promised him materials or funds did not deliver.  The delays cost him his goal of actually beating his dad to Eagle, but he was not to be dissuaded.  After pursuing different avenues, and working around the zoo schedule we were slated to perform his project in September, 2015.

Although I participated in Cub Scouts a lot, by the time the boys moved to Boy Scouts, I had moved my participation to more of a committee position and less of the “go on each campout” role.   I guess part of me decided that a Boy Scout is more mature and more like a young man, and doesn’t need his mom around as much as he needs his dad.  I didn’t anticipate the role I would get to play in Lucas’ Eagle project, however.   With Louis serving as Scoutmaster, it wasn’t appropriate for him to mentor Lucas in this endeavor.  I told Lucas I would help guide him as much as I could, and we started off.    What I found throughout that journey was that Lucas and I were able to share some incredible moments, some great conversation, and I saw his excitement from a perspective I’m not sure anyone else really got to see.   We also frustrated each other and argued –I don’t want to give you the impression it was all gumdrops and lollipops, but it was an experience that I now treasure.

The project itself was completed successfully, and with very few bumps in the road, so we were all exhausted but pleased.  His Board of Review (the interview following the project to ensure he has met all his qualifications and is “ready” to be an Eagle) was the realization for all of us that he was finally there and I was just as nervous as he was that night, I’m sure of it.  The day we went down to have his paperwork signed off I was so excited I went a little crazy in the Scout shop buying all manner of “Eagle” related items (those people can rival Wal-Mart in their appreciation of an excited parent and placement of excitement-related products).  His dad and I hosted a Court of Honor ceremony for him which was attended by many family and friends, and we cried through almost the whole thing.  This has become quite a point of humor for us, as we’re not typically big criers.

For Louis, this was the culmination of a dream he had dared to dream, and the satisfaction of having played such a large role in this with Lucas.  For Lucas, I think seeing his dad so proud and knowing he had achieved such a tremendous feat, and for me it was seeing a kid who was finally really finding his voice and recognizing that he could contribute on a very high level.   So everyone had to endure our tearful progression through the ceremony, and I think ultimately no one minded.

So, our Eagle has landed, and I have seen an interesting set of changes occur in him.  Last night he and I had a conversation and he began working on a presentation he would like to make to his troop to help the younger boys preparing for Eagle.  I guided him on starting his outline, but the ideas are all his.  I was so thrilled to see him want to share that with everyone and help the other boys move ahead.  Oh, he still doesn’t do everything quite the way I’d like and we still argue about why that might be (especially where school is concerned), but he walks a little taller and he speaks up a little more and I have to remind myself that it’s all a progression and he’ll get there eventually.   Did you know that only 4% of boys in Scouting will ever achieve the rank of Eagle?   And I’ve got two in my house!

Lucas has motivated his younger brother to start working on his Eagle project as well, so pretty soon it looks like I’ll be living in a house full of Eagle Scouts, and I couldn’t be more proud.


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