I'm tired today. Weary again. I worried all night. And not for my son so much, but for my Scouts. Two different parents came to me in confidence about an upcoming event. Evidently, last year, at the same event, most of our then larger Den had received awards except for a few. It was something the parents were not aware of until shortly before or even as it happened. They felt excluded. They were hurt. And they wanted someone to make sure this wouldn't happen again. They asked me to ensure that whatever awards were given, whatever requirements needed to be met, that their child was on track to receive it. My immediate reaction was to respond, "Of course, I completely understand. Whatever it is, we'll do it. We'll all be ready for it. We'll get the award."
It turns out the award in question was our rank. While the Crossing Over ceremony is in the Spring, some scouts, some Dens, complete their rank requirements early and can be awarded them at the Blue and Gold dinner. I didn't know this and I just hadn't set this pace from the beginning. We're not even close to completion.
But of course these parents' concerns and desire to protect their children tapped right into my own fears. A strong surge of empathy, concern and responsibility welled up and would not let me rest. After fretting about it all day, I decided upon a series of responses I felt were truly the best:
First, I called the Pack leader to find out how many Dens were expected to receive their rank early (I didn't want ours to be the only one that didn't, thankfully we're not). With as much discretion as I could, I explained the situation and my desire to make this year a better experience. He suggested that he make an announcement at the event that those scouts receiving their rank had elected to complete their requirements early or something similar. It seemed as if it might help.
Next, I sent an email with all the info I could about the event to my Den including what awards would be given and what our scouts might expect to and not to receive. Afterall, with C.S., I understand and value the importance of managing expectations.
Then, I planned a meeting prior to the event where I will award each scout that portion of their rank which they have earned. I have also assigned them the task of helping a new scout in our Den catch up on his many requirements so that he will earn his rank by Spring. I've suggested that whatever we do and wherever we are in our rank progress, that we cooperate as a Den and so, that we also agree to receive our rank award at one time, all together. I hope they agree to this.
But the one thing I am not able to do is what was asked of me — my scouts will not be awarded their rank at this event. And it had surprised me how much this is weighing on me. It has really struck a nerve.
I've thought a great deal about it. I've decided that our previous Den leaders really never intended of course to hurt these kids or to exclude them. But it did happen and certainly continued to as I experienced at the beginning of the year. (see my earlier post Crusades and might as well check out Outcasting too.) I won't allow the defense that anyone is just being "too sensitive" — something I haven't heard applied to this situation, but that I've heard so much I certainly have begun to expect it. Many of the scouts in my troop have slight, invisible disabilities. Nothing bad, but still issues around which real and valid, very tender sensitivities develop. Unfortunately, too few people, teachers, educators, leaders, parents really understand this. And if there is anything in this world I am trying to change it is that more people understand, more people perceive, more people learn how best to reach out and assist the kids in their communities with slight needs. High-functioning and invisible disabilities cause far greater frustrations and difficulties than I think anyone realizes, not just for the children but also their entire family. I wish I could award these kids badges they so deserve for the many hurdles they've quietly overcome without recognition.
Silver Lining: My girl scouts are currently discussing the idea of being a "change factor." I recall the impact a similar discussion had made upon me. I decided then and I suppose it stayed with me, that yes I did wish to be a change factor, that I would do what I could to help others and make this world a better place. It has turned out that I've had more opportunities than I imagined, that they are all small but that it has made for a much rougher road than I ever imagined. I'm not so certain my efforts have done anything but make my life more difficult, except when it comes to my children. I know I've made a difference for them. And now, perhaps in some small way, I think I'm making a difference for these scouts too. At least I'm trying to. But one thing is certain, my experience with scouting has taught me lessons, has helped me build character, has added definition to my beliefs, but oh so differently than I ever expected it would.