“As a young boy, scouting gave me a confidence and camaraderie that is hard to find in modern life.” – Bear Grylls
My oldest son has his Eagle Scout Master conference tonight; I think I am more excited than he is.
The Scoutmaster conference is a visit between the Scoutmaster and a Scout; it is usually held after the Scout completes all requirements for a rank, before the Board of Review. This conference determines if the Scout is ready to go before the Board to review and approve the rank of Eagle Scout. Once he passes the Eagle Scout Scoutmaster Conference and the Eagle Scout Board of Review, he can plan his Court of Honor, and become an Eagle Scout.
My son joined Cub Scouts in second grade as a Wolf Cub; he was eager to join Den 5, which the previous year, had consisted of just two boys.
I was happy to be the Den Mother to Den 5 for the Wolf year, Bear year, and two years of Webelos. I coordinated activities and outings with other moms as our Den grew to 12 boys. As the boys earned badges and belt slides and met the requirements of each rank, my son stayed focused on one thing: Eagle Scout.
My husband and I looked at each other knowingly: approximately 6% of scouts reach the rank of Eagle Scout; our son would have to put in a lot of time and effort to meet that goal.
Our family became a scouting family. My husband camped with the Cub Scouts, we participated in the Rain gutter Regatta and Pinewood Derby. My parents supported our Cub Scout Pack 128 by purchasing during their popcorn fundraising sales and donating food during the holiday food drive.
Upon hearing of each rank advancement – from Wolf to Bear to Webelo – my mom would send a card to him; each one said “Congratulations! We are so proud of you! Xoxo Nana and Grandpa.”
In 5th grade when my son “bridged over” from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts, my mom was thrilled. “How is my future Eagle Scout?” she would ask.
My son loved sharing stories about their backpacking, hiking, and whitewater rafting trips and about the requirements he had to complete in order to earn merit badges.
My mom would send a congratulations card as he moved up the Boy Scout rank of Tenderfoot, Scout, and Second Class; little did we know that the card she sent when he reached Second Class would be the last one he would receive: my mom passed away a scant two months after Spring Court of Honor in 2016.
As he moved up in rank to First Class, Star Scout, and Life Scout, I would hug him and tell him “You’re another step closer to Eagle Scout. Nana would be so proud of you!”
“Thanks, mom,” he would tell me; I could always see the sadness in his eyes that my mom wasn’t there to acknowledge and encourage him.
This last year, between Life Scout and Eagle Scout, has been a busy one: school, baseball, cars, girls, and college applications. He finished his Eagle Scout project a few months ago, but still had four Eagle merit badges he needed to finish before he could schedule his Eagle Scoutmaster Conference and subsequent Eagle Board of Review.
My son’s troop is a boy-led troop, meaning parents stand by and let the boys lead and do the work; sometimes it is hard to stand on the sidelines and watch, hearing about these merit badges was one of those times.
“You have four merit badges to finish? Four?” I had asked him.
“Yes, but they’re all partials, Mom. I’ll get them done by the end of January,” he assured me.
He outlined his plans to finish the three requirements for his Cooking Merit Badge: he created a menu for three meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), wrote out a shopping list, shopped for the ingredients and cooked three meals for our family.
The other merit badges Personal Management, Family Life, and Personal Fitness – had already been completed – He had created a budget, tracked his spending and discussed money and finance. He had tracked his daily chores, discussed topics of substance abuse, sex, and the effect of technology as well as proper etiquette and manners; he had tracked his physical activities for three months – the only thing standing between my son and his Scoutmaster Conference were meetings with Merit badge counselors. It was up to my son to take care of these, not me.
Last Monday night, when my sons came home from the scout meeting, my older son said, “I had my meetings, my merit badges have been signed off and my Scoutmaster conference is scheduled for next week.”
I got goosebumps: Eagle Scout, he had reached his goal. I wished my mom was here to hear this news. I pulled him into a hug, “I’m proud of you,” I told him.
The next morning, I called my dad and shared the news.
“K completed the remaining merit badges and he has his Scoutmaster conference,” I told my dad.
“He’s an Eagle scout?” my dad asked.
“Almost, he has his Scoutmaster conference and then an Eagle Board of Review,” I told him.
“But he did it? He’s going to be an Eagle Scout?”
“Congratulations! You tell him I said ‘atta boy’!” my dad said.
I could hear my dad choke up; I knew tears were welling up in his baby blue eyes, as I waited for what I knew would be next.
“Karen, your mother always said he would be an Eagle Scout.”
“Yes, she did, Dad.”
The unspoken words “I wish she was here” hung between us. We didn’t have to say it, we both knew my mom would be proud.