Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Fate Worse Than Death

["Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published August 14, 2014] © 2014 

Somehow (an attack of divorce guilt, I think), I ended up being a Cub Scout den leader for my older son Rory’s den. It wasn’t all that easy to find activities that I could do as a single mom with sons. They’d be willing to go to the occasional movie with me, and I could be a manager of youth sports teams but even the latter didn’t give me much one-on-one time with the boys. They really weren’t interested in lunch and shopping. And that was probably a good thing.

But scouting worked well. They were stuck with me on a regular basis, not only at den meetings but to fulfill badge requirements. So there was a lot of potential quality time—potential being the operative word. I will say that first den was a tough crowd and a huge learning curve. Nine-year-old boys en masse are not known for their delicacy. Meetings were started with the Pledge of Allegiance, the Cub Scout Promise (“Do Your Best!”), and the admonition that anyone comparing anyone else’s face to other parts of his anatomy and/or an excremental function, got to sit out on the porch until his mother came.

One of my fears about being a scout leader was that I was no good at crafts or even rudimentary scouting skills. I never did learn knots, in spite of spending considerable time using the rabbit-goes-around-the-tree-and-through-the-hole method. (My rabbits always went around the wrong tree, got tangled up and hung themselves.)  But it was also more fun than I imagined too. I got to meet lots of other parents (some of them good friends to this day), took on my younger son Henry’s dens as well, and ultimately ended up running the whole program.

Not long ago, I was at a birthday lunch at Sammy’s with three other women, all of whose sons were in my younger son’s Cub Scout den. I was recalling one of the meetings that took place at my house one September afternoon while we worked on our water safety badge in my pool. One of the tricks I taught the kids was a Navy survival technique that a military parent had taught in Rory’s den whereby if you needed to abandon a sinking ship and didn’t have a life preserver, you could take off your pants, knot the legs, and jump in holding the pants upside down over your head. The pants would fill with air as you jumped and voila, instant life preserver. I thought they would think this was incredibly cool.

They did not.

A hand went up immediately. What if there were girls on the boat?  I was initially touched by the concern for the welfare of persons who might be weaker, or perhaps wearing dresses and not pants. I quickly came up with an adaptation for skirts, concluding I was a total genius.

But I notice the kids are still not happy. After some additional queries, it was determined that the issue regarding the opposite sex, shared unanimously by all members of the den, was this:  they would see you in your underwear. Nope, no concern for the girls at all. After some additional discussion, it was decided that every man has to decide in his own heart whether he’d rather drown or have girls see him in his skivvie. It was clear from their faces which one these kids would choose. And I thought there were no fates worse than death.

Now, some 25 years later, all these guys are married, half have children, the rest likely will soon. Somewhere along the line they overcame the morbid fear of a girl seeing them in their underwear (or less). Nay, I think we can conclude that they have even embraced the idea.

All of us grandchildren-coveting moms agreed that this was good news.

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