Me, Myself, as Mommy: Relishing in the unexpected joys of Scouting
If you’ve read my previous columns over the years — heck, if you’ve met me in person — you know I have a default setting to “complain.” There’s not an injustice I won’t take up, a slight I won’t address or an annoyance I won’t over analyze. Due to a journey of self-preservation and lower anxiety, I now breathe through trite transgressions. I’m willing to overlook meatheads who neglect to wipe down weight equipment after dripping salty, bacterial-laden germs on the very handlebars I’m about to grip — all in the hopes I avoid the label of “Karen.” I hate that stupid moniker. You win, I will never speak to another manager as long as I live.
This immense self-awareness led me to lament my lamenting. So instead of my default, I’m going to focus on the good happening in our community. Every Wednesday night, I am reminded just how much virtue, generosity and innocence still resides in the places we live. It’s those nights I get to be a part of Pack 724 in Farr West. Hyper boys, their equally energized siblings and often exhausted parents gather to build a better world through boisterous discussions paired with frenzied activities designed by den leaders full of good intentions to build stewardship in the future generation.
I never pictured myself as a den mother when I started my parenting odyssey, but I should have realized my fate since my husband attributes some of his best experiences to places like Camp Loll and Camp Steiner. He’s an Eagle Scout, which doesn’t always mean much to those who don’t know the work, perseverance and time it takes to earn the red, white and blue knot. But those in Scouting know why he’s proud to boast over the achievement decades later.
Brian doesn’t insist on much, just that one side of the sink remain dish free, that I buy at least 2% milk and that I never get bangs. But he absolutely insisted that our boys be a part of the Boy Scouts of America. When my oldest son, Benson, hit 6, I ventured to find a pack that would be nondenominational. This proved tricky, so I naively decided to start my own. With the amount of work it takes to establish a troop or pack, one may as well go to law school. This is a system that takes so much organization, time, training and money, I clearly did not have the capability to make it successful. Our local Crossroads of the West Council lead me to Cub Scout Pack 724. Almost five years later, my boys know where they’ll be Wednesday night.
Established in 2002, Rusty Shoemake, Corey Taylor, Ed Reese and Brad MacDonald kept this pack going through their own life changes, the separation from the LDS Church (although Pack 724 has always been self-funded through fundraisers) and COVID-19. Den leaders have come and gone, but these men continue to keep this pack not only alive but thriving. They give countless hours to make sure these boys get the experiences they set out for when they signed up.
“It’s about perseverance. We just keep going. It’s that and the leaders who keep this pack going” says Shoemake, the pack committee chair. Shoemake is a die-hard Scouter with a room in his house dedicated to his lifetime in the BSA. His two grandsons, daughter Emily and son-in-law Brian all play roles in Pack 724, which explains why Shoemake continues to make Pack 724 a centerpiece in his life.
For the second year in a row, Pack 724 earned “Gold” status in the BSA Journey to Excellence award. This means a pack went above and beyond on the experiences they offer the kids involved in the group. As a parent, I see firsthand what these boys get to do from the classic derby races and hikes to water rockets and selling jerky to raise funds.
Benson was born to sport the uniform. He absolutely delights in rolling the neckerchief, tucking in the crinkly shirt and marching as he presents the flag. Yearly Scout Camp is the third-most anticipated event of the year after Christmas and the end of the school year. He hangs with his buddies, laughs over one another’s foibles and loves the challenge of selling jerky to unsuspecting shoppers. Last year, Benson watched a moose traipse through camp. He’s the epitome of a duck in water when it comes to Scouts.
It’s when you’re watching my son on the autism spectrum where you see the power of Cub Scouts. I could see it when, after watching other boys walk up to complete strangers asking if they wanted to buy jerky, he forgot about his speech delay and an inability to look at people’s faces and soon became an expert salesman. I see it each time he laughs at Scouts, feeling safe with peers who recite the same Oath and Law based on kindness and respect. I see it as he leads a room to stand and say the Pledge of Allegiance because he asked them to.
The BSA certainly has its issues as it faces lawsuits and accusations. These are issues they must answer and rectify, that they must make right in whatever way that can be done, if at all. The survivors must be recognized and respected. This is part of the Law I say at the start of every meeting: A Scout is trustworthy and loyal. As a leader, I have learned the good intentions instilled in what the BSA espouses. It’s these intentions I choose to focus on as I continue to take part in Pack 724. It’s this goodness that keeps kids showing up every Wednesday.
Each week as my posse rolls into Cub Scouts about five minutes late, discombobulated but excited, I know I will walk away feeling upbeat, hopeful and appreciative of the time given to my children. As Shoemake walks from den to den reminding the boys to tuck in their shirts or asking if they had fun, I see Pack 724 is his legacy, and it’s one he can be proud of.
Meg Sanders worked in broadcast journalism for over a decade but has since turned her life around to stay closer to home in Ogden. Her three children keep her indentured as a taxi driver, stylist and sanitation worker. In her free time, she likes to read, write, lift weights and go to concerts with her husband of 17 years.