Eagle or bust

You know how sometimes a person decides to do a crazy big project that’s completely out of their element, and blog as they go, and then publish their adventure in a book? I found my crazy, big, long-term project to write into a book:

I’m going to earn my Eagle.

Yeah, the Boy Scouts Eagle.

Scouts was created for teenage boys, which I most definitely am not. Let’s just be blunt. I’m a 50-year-old woman who is 50 pounds overweight and a total wimp. Not exactly Scout material here.

But I’m going to do it anyway, because I wanted to be a Scout the entire time I was growing up.

When I was a kid – third grade maybe? – I was briefly a “Campfire girl.” I vaguely remember that my adventure lasted only a few months and I have no idea why I stopped going. (Did my parents pull me out? Did the troop disband? I don’t know.) My brothers, on the other hand, were in Cub Scouts with all the meetings and accoutrements and camps that came along with it. Our mom was the den leader for awhile, so the meetings were even at my house. I can still, forty years later, rattle off the Cub Scout oath from 1982:

On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country, to help other people, and obey the Law of the Pack.

For decades, Scouts was the official youth program in the LDS Church for the boys. When my brothers moved up to Boy Scouts, they went to summer camp in the mountains with horses, a shooting range, and even a lake with water skiing. They did all kinds of activities all over the place, and all three of my brothers reached Eagle before they were 16.

The girls, on the other hand, got no such attention at church. There was no activity program at all for girls under age 12. When I moved up into the youth program, the girls did have weekly activities but I don’t remember a single thing about anything we did. Probably crafts or cooking or talked about the scriptures. I do remember that our weeklong summer camp was in tents in the middle of an empty field and we all had to walk out to the road where two little outhouses stood next to some brush for our “facilities.” We did crafts and talked about the scriptures. At camp.

Personal Progress and the Young Women medallion – our goal and achievement programming – was supposed to be the girls’ equivalent of an Eagle but I was never convinced. I did complete it, but by the skin of my teeth because I just didn’t care. It was boring – mostly reading scriptures and writing in a journal, and service. I would rather have been in Scouts having outdoor adventures.

(Sidenote: I was a Personal Progress advisor as an adult, and got a lot more out of the program then. It did turn out to be a good thing, before it was replaced by new programming in January 2020. But as a kid? Nope. In part, because it was so inequitable.)

Fast forward a whole lot of years and I married an Eagle Scout. He was a Scoutmaster for a couple of years (only left it because we moved), and has done all the adult training, including Wood Badge. We are the parents of a bunch of girls, no boys. Sooo … no Scouts.

When our oldest turned 8, (the same age boys were enrolled in Scouts in our church), I made darn sure there was a girls activity program. They had activity nights but no structure beyond some vague guidelines in “Faith in God.” So I created it myself. By sheer force of will, my daughters and their friends did have fun activities and summer day camp and a structure for consistent and frequent awards for reaching goal benchmarks with Faith in God. We played and made and learned.

People asked why I was so adamant about the girls’ program doing a lot “because other girls around the area and around the world don’t have this type of activity.” I responded that I did not care what other girls around the area did or did not do – my concern was what my daughters saw the boys down the hall at church get to do, and the girls were going to get a program as equal as I could make it. My strongest measure of success was when parents told me that their little girls could not wait to be old enough to join my group – they were so excited, because we had so much fun.

Four years ago, at long last, BSA opened enrollment to girls. I was STOKED. My girls could do what I could not! We would have located – or formed – a girls’ troop and registered them immediately, except they didn’t want to do it. Outside with bugs? Ewww! Sigh. Adam and I quietly put all of his Scout gear in the back of a closet and didn’t talk about it.

But we have more kids … Last summer on a road trip, we watched the old Disney movie “Follow Me Boys” and our 4th kid – who was now ten (and had been too young at the initial announcement) – said, “I want to do that. Can I be a Scout?” Why, yes you can! As soon as you turn eleven. “I want to earn every merit badge!”

Well, then …

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