Sunday, August 24, 2008
This Is What It’s All About
“But why do you continue?”
I get asked this question a lot, especially lately, in regards to Cub Scouts. “Why deal with all those headaches?” “Why not just move to another Pack?” “Why not let someone else do it?” And now that both of my boys are firmly moved on to Boy Scouts, “Why stay if you don’t even have any boys in Cub Scouts?”
The problem is that if you’ve never been a Cub Scout leader, you just won’t get it. Well, I imagine the same holds true for any leader or teacher of kids, regardless of the group. There are defining moments of fulfillment that one can’t put easily to words, moments that change you forever, “light bulb moments” where for at least a brief moment, everything comes to crystal focus, the world shines brightly, and you think to yourself, “I get it. This is what it’s all about.” And by it, I don’t mean Cub Scouts or Girl Scouts or Sunday school, I mean life. Those moments don’t happen once a week. Those moments are unpredictable and erratic. But they do happen and they make everything worthwhile.
Let me put it to you in another light. We anticipate babies for nine months, anxiously awaiting their arrival. When finally they show up, it’s often a painful messy affair. The weeks after are a hazy mix of hormonal chaos and exhaustion. For what often seems like an eternity while you’re going through it (afterward, you wonder when you blinked and missed all that time that flew by) you are stuck with a squalling, leaking, high maintenance vanity pet that often makes you contemplate giving up sex altogether. Does this mean you should dump the little bugger in the nearest dumpster and call it quits? Noooo. Definitely not.
Well, of course not. You have a responsibility to stick with it, right? Well. Yeah. But, no.
Really, there’s a lot more to it, because in spite of the blown out diapers, the projectile vomiting, the inconsolable nights of crying (you or the baby), the teething, the weaning, the painful night training… there are moments where everything just falls into place and you just know you’re in the right place at the right time. Maybe it’s a smile that comes after finally - finally - that bubble of air works its way out in a monstrous burp that rattles the china cabinet. Maybe it’s curling up, skin on skin, feeling the warmth of your little poo machine and smelling that irresistible and very specific baby smell. Maybe it’s seeing those proud first steps after a million failed attempts. For each person it’s different, but those moments do come and you can’t predict when, or how, but when they hit you, they hit you hard and deep. Life changing.
And so, I continue. I struggle. I fuss. I tense. I battle the demons, both real and imagined.
Sometimes, it’s hard. Like. Dude. Really hard. No, I mean it. Seriously.
This last year I have felt constantly on edge, continuously in a panic over whether or not I could hold things together. It vividly reminds me of when I was seventeen. I was a very inexperienced driver, but I had to drive to work one snowy morning. On my way there, I hit a slick patch of ice and to this day I remember the horrifying crunching grind as the car slid off the road, over frozen tire tread lined slush, and finally smacked unceremoniously into a very solid cement retaining wall. Thankfully, I was unharmed, but I was in shock and wasn’t thinking very clearly at all. In my head, all I knew is that I had to get home, so somehow, in some way, I managed to back the car out and turn it around and get back onto the icy road and head home.
My parents owned a restaurant and every morning my grandparents ate breakfast there. As I pulled into the parking lot, both my parents (who were working at the time) and my grandparents rushed out to greet me. My grandmother threw hear arms around me as I stepped out of the car and held on to me fiercely. My dad took long, purposeful strides over to the car and immediately began assessing the damage. My mother kept repeating over and over, “My baby! My BABY!” though to this day I don’t know if she was referring to me or her car. My grandfather put a firm hand on my shoulder and said with amazement, “Just how the hell did you get that thing home?”
I don’t know. I just DID it. I had to. I had to get home.
And as the end of last scouting year wound down, I looked back over the road I traveled and I thought, “Just how the hell did I do that?” I felt my jellied insides threatening to come up in a Technicolor yawn with the residual fear and drained feeling that’s left after a close romance with adrenalin. It was precisely the same feelings I had after arriving home after the collision.
And yet, here we go again, setting off on the adventure of another scouting year. Theoretically, I am able to bail ship after December. Technically, I could jump ship any time I want without any real repercussions. But, no. I can’t. Because there are haunting, life changing moments that defined the very core of just exactly why we do all this that put me back in the driver’s seat: nervous, cautious, anxious, and yet positively sure that this is the right thing to do.
It is the moment that R. looked up and me and said, “This is kinda like how the earth holds in all our water and then it rains back down, huh?” when we made terrariums. It is the moment when B. (not even in my den) ran up to me at school and threw his arms around my waist for the first time and said, “When do we get to go back to Scouts!?” It is the half delighted, half grossed out squeal Devon made the first time he caught a fish.
It is the day we were learning about the 12 points of the Scout Law and were discussing Reverence and A. said, “Well, reverence is, well, it’s respecting and loving and being in awe of the Creator who holds us and protects us with both His hands.”
Those are the moments. I have to see this thing through. I have to ensure that I did MY best. Most definitely I fulfilled my promise to Sebastian in being his den leader. I fulfilled my promise to my scouts. But I also made a promise to the pack, and until I know that the other parents and scouts are either done with the program or okay to take over, I’m not going to abandon them anymore than I’d dump my baby in a dumpster.
Elisa at 08/24/08 06:56 AM
What a beautifully written post!
I get what you’re saying. I have a friend who is the PTA president for her school district. She’s done it two years in a row and bitches constantly about the hassles related to it. I have never understood why she does it when it’s so much trouble but I think it must be similar to being a den leader, because now I get it.
Pooka at 08/24/08 09:33 AM
Hear HEAR! After all the hassle. There were kids who wouldn’t cooperate and sometimes even actively attacked the order and peace of the meetings; the parents who either WOULDN’T help or, worse, argued about everything you wanted to make happen. Once in a rare while, someone would thank you, or show some little moment of inspiration that made it all seem right. It’s just making it through the drudgery of the routine between the points of gold that burns. I know it. Girl Scouts follows the same routine. I’m not cut out for running that show: I learned that last year. You’re amazing me with your endurance. That said, call us up when you plan Halloween next year and we’ll come up.
Krush at 08/26/08 08:20 AM
Love this post! You are very committed to these boys and that committment, among many other things, makes you the wonderful & special person that you are!!!
mamaerica at 08/26/08 09:10 AM
I’m inspired by your post, really & truly. I “get” why you’ve stayed, and I hear the heartache at times too. Those boys will remember you as someone who really cared about them and that is a precious gift!