Friday, October 4, 2013

Boy Scouts of America: Pitching Tents Since 1910


I'm a firm believer in active parenting.  That is to say, I make sure that my short people remain active so that they are not bugging the ever-loving shit out of me with their incessant demands for such trivialities as food and maternal affection.  Since both of my boys have their mother's mad musical skillz. . .*

*Yes.  I DO count an encyclopedic knowledge of Eminem lyrics as a "skill"

. . .and I'm hoping to raise them in true Joy Luck Club Tiger Mom fashion, we do the requisite piano and violin lessons.  The shorties are also actively involved in their church youth group in a desperate attempt to ameliorate the spiritual damage inflicted by a lifetime of listening to Jurassic 5 and the Wu-Tang Clan and this year the boys have entered their final year as Cub Scouts.

Cub Scouts is one of those organizations that teaches valuable life lessons like: how to construct a balsa wood race car without losing your shit, or, that in the woods, no one can hear you scream.  I jest, I jest. . .kind of.  In truth, if you can look beyond the fundamentalist Christian slash "death to homos" stance, the Boy Scouts of America has been raising fine young men who will never get laid til college for centuries.  And as I fully intend to be grandchild-free for at least another 12-15 years (and because I'm a whore for a s'more, yo) scouting seemed the perfect past time for the shorties, and myself.

What I failed to realize when I first signed the boys up for scouting nigh long four years ago, was how frigging NEEDY the scout masters are.  Every day my email inbox was flooded like the hull of the Andrea Doria, and I would find myself barraged by demands for projects, and overnights, and fundraisers, and camping trips.*

*Nononononononono.  I do not camp.  Hell to the no.  Giant, steaming bowls of NO.

And, of course, once you have completed said tasks/projects/douchebaggery, you are "rewarded" with more fucking patches to be sewn onto TWO uniforms.  Remember my aforementioned stance on camping?  Well, multiply that by the amount of Duggar spawn and that pretty much sums up my hatred of sewing.  Why do I need to sew?  I'm not Betsy Ross.  This isn't the Great Depression.  Do you know what I do if I get a hole in my sock?  I say "Oh, that's a crying goddamn shame" then I drive my punk ass to Target, throw down a couple of bones, and buy a new pair of socks.  Check and mate, bitches.

The start of the school year is a magical time in scouting as it is when the Cubs kick off their biggest fundraiser of the year: popcorn sales.  Scouts rush to sign up for the prime selling times outside of local Home Depots and grocery stores and parents start Facebook pages and Twitter accounts solely to coerce their family and friends into paying $20 for a microscopic bag of stale popcorn; peddling their wares like a hooker when the rent is due.  Why such exuberance?  Because the top sellers win such valuable prizes as potato guns and camping trips.  Now, (a) the reason why I no longer work in retail is because I have the marketing acumen of an autistic wolverine, (b) arming my children with potato guns will only end in some dystopian "Hunger Games" scenario, and, (c) I believe we've already established my militant stance on the whole camping thing.  So, no, I do not scramble desperately to stand outside of Safeway in a daring attempt to be the Corn Queen of Portland, but as I am all about the parental support thing, I did sign up the short people and myself for a selling shift outside of Lowe's last Sunday.*

*But only after the Seahawks game, because...priorities.

Now, for those of you not living in my fine city, last weekend we were slammed by the tailend of a typhoon out of Japan. Our typical drizzly September weather went from mild precipitation to a class-5 bukkake right in Portland's smug face.  But while most people were smart enough to stay inside during Tropical Storm Unagi, my shorties and I were standing under a flimsy shelter getting water boarded hard enough to make Dick Cheney cringe.

The short people were far more enthusiastic about our afternoon activities than I. M raced through the torrential rain to deliver his sales pitch and met every soul-crushing rejection with a cheery "OK, thanks anyway! Maybe next time!" and J, in true drama queen fashion, choreographed an intricate song and dance routine about popcorn that would rival any Broadway play.*

*Well, maybe off-Broadway. . .way, way off-Broadway.

"Whoa, ease up there, Neil Patrick Harris." I said with a bewildered shake of my head. "Wait...did you just do jazz hands?"

J shrugged casually.  "Meh, the dance needed a little somethin-somethin. What's wrong with jazz hands?"

"Nothing! Nothing at all." I said, patting his head tenderly.  "Don't ask, don't tell, that's my motto.  Besides, I understand the Scouts are a lot more understanding about that lifestyle these days."

J tilted his head in confusion. "What lifestyle, Mommy?"

"Dancing, Babe." I smiled gently.*

*OK, before anyone blasts me for "outing" my son, let me clarify that, at present, it is merely a pipe dream...a dream that, one day, when I'm old and infirm, J and his life partner, Stephan, will call me 'Nana' and let me live in their guest house and take care of their adopted Chinese baby.  And on weekends we'll go out for scones and they'll take me to musicals and make sure my lipstick is on straight...I may have given this some thought.

As the rain increased, the foot traffic rapidly decreased, and I watched as the spirit of entrepreneurialism slowly faded from my children's eyes.  Finally, a smiling woman approached the table.

"How much is the cheese corn?" she asked.

"Twenty dollars!" M beamed, holding out the bag of popcorn.

The woman looked horrified.  "TWENTY dollars!?!?  For this TINY bag!?!?  Why?"

M looked puzzled.  "Because that's how much the leaders said it was." he explained patiently.

The woman narrowed her eyes at M, obviously wondering if he was being a smart ass.*

*Which, seeing as he is MY child, would be a natural assumption.  M, however is not a smart ass but rather a child with autism who calls shit as he sees it.  Straight up, Little Man.

"I don't know where you get off justifying that kind of markup."  the woman sneered.  "You ought to be ashamed of yourselves."

OK. . .Back.  The fuck.  Up.  Did she seriously just inform my eleven year old children that they should bear some deep, existential angst for standing outside a poor man's Home Depot schlepping popcorn in a frigging monsoon?  They didn't establish the prices!  They didn't set out with some nefarious plot to scalp the fine citizens of Lake Oswego!  This was the part where I wanted to tell this chick to go cornhole herself with her umbrella, but I channeled my inner Carrie Underwood and let Jesus take the wheel.

"It's less about the popcorn."  I explained.  "The money is actually a donation to the Scouts which helps fund educational and spiritually sound activities for the boys.  It also pays for uniforms and dues for those families who can't afford them."

Looking somewhat abashed, the woman set the popcorn down, muttered a feeble "OKsorryhaveaniceday" and slunk off into Lowe's with her metaphoric tail between her legs.

Sighing with annoyance, I plunked down in the folding chair and began tapping on my phone. "Mommy!"  J admonished. "No sitting down!"

I leveled him with a thousand-yard stare.  "Am I the one wearing the funny hat and Mister Furley neck scarf?  No.  This is your gig, Dude.  I'm just here to make sure no one throws you into a windowless van."

J scowled, and returned to selling, glancing briefly at my phone.  "Hey!"  he cried. "Are you playing 'Candy Crush'?"

I quickly pocketed my phone.  "Of course not!  Just checking the weather for today."

M stared at me solemnly.  "You know, you go to hell for lying, Mommy."

Thus admonished, I got out of my chair and stood between my soaked and shivering children, rubbing their arms and backs for warmth.

"Oh, Captain, my Captain,"  J said with gravity. "Permission to use inappropriate language?"

Looking out at the flooded parking lot, waiting for Kate Winslet to drift by on a piece of driftwood, I considered his request.  "Permission granted, Soldier."

J sighed dramatically.  "This sucks ass."

I nodded in agreement.  "This sucks steaming piles of ass, Little Man."

"We only have twenty more minutes, can't we just leave?"  he begged plaintively.

I thought about his question, looking out at the rain swept parking lot, watching my sons bounce up and down for warmth, and considering the paltry number of people willing to brave the weather for home goods and popcorn and gave him my reply.  Suddenly, a bowl of chili and my electric blanket sounded like a lovely idea.  Then I remembered why we joined Scouts in the first place:  honor, respect, and commitment.  My short people have been very blessed to have a grandfather who embodies all three of those qualities; a man who stepped forward when I left my husband and said "I'll be their father now".  A man who never backed down from a fight and has worked his whole life to provide for his family.  A man who honors every commitment and doesn't look to pass blame or find a loophole when things get awkward or difficult.  They are blessed to have this man as their grandfather as he embodies everything their real father is not.  If my boys grow up to be one-tenth the man my father is, the world will be a better place for it.

"We can't leave, J."  I said with a smile.  "We made a commitment, and a Xxxxxxx always honors their commitments."

"But, we aren't Xxxxxxx's,"  M replied.  "Our last name is Xxxxxxx."

J thought for a moment.  "We're both, M."  he concluded.  "Daddy takes care of us sometimes, but so do Momo and Poppo.  Momo taught you to read, remember?  And Poppo taught us how to ride bikes.  And Auntie Holly taught me how to tie my shoes.  So, really. . .we're both families."

Seemingly satisfied with J's assessment (albeit less than thrilled to be standing in the deluge for another twenty minutes), M steeled his resolve and began stacking more popcorn on the table.

I have had many proud moments in parenting with my short people.  They are constantly astounding me with their depth and maturity and empathy, but never have I been prouder of them than I was at that moment.  For at that moment, I looked at them, and I saw an image of the men they would become.  I looked at them, and I saw the greatest man alive.  I looked at them, and I saw my father.


P.S. We sold enough popcorn to earn a prize. . .a camping trip.  Pray for me.


ChillinVillain said...

With last names like that, I'm sorta surprised your family doesn't run a porn syndicate.

You're awesome!

Tiffany said...

Look at you keeping your big-girl panties on, telling that woman what the money is really for without being bitchy! That's some gross popcorn, too. I bought the white chocolate covered pretzels, because I couldn't shell out $20 for popcorn that tastes slightly like old man feet and has an aftertaste of barmat-induced puke.

The one year we did Girl Scouts, our troop sold over $5000 of cookies, and the troop only got LESS than $500 back. I was pissed. But BSA gives a much bigger chunk to the troop, so it's not a scam like the Girl Scouts.

We now do American Heritage Girls. (I love AHG's program. Girl Scouts didn't impress me at all.) Guess what the fundraiser is? "Either your girls can sell these reasonably priced bulbs for some pretty spring flowers, or you can just write the troop a check for $40 to fulfill your fundraising obligation." I happily whip out the checkbook!

But you think about J being gay, not M? God, I HOPE my autistic son is gay and NEVER wants to adopt! The mere thought of him ever being responsible for the life of another human, especially a baby, terrifies me. He'd kill it. Not accidentally, either, most likely. He has no empathy or understanding that it's not okay to beat/ stab someone because they pissed him off; if he wants to hurt them, then they should be totally okay with it.

Anyway, you're doing a great job raising young men of godly character! (Although you should check out Pentatonix's version of your favorite songs, they redid "Thrift Shop" with no cuss words.)

tbunni said...

First of all, I live just slightly south of you in a little town called Salem. (Its the state capital. Never heard of it? Most people haven't.) So I can attest to the incredible amount of rain that came down last weekend. I've lived in the Pacific Northwest for over 50 years, but have only seen rain like that a handful of times. I'm in awe that none of you drowned just standing there.

You are doing an incredible job of raising your shorties. I think we can all agree on that. And gob-smacking that annoying woman with a sweet smile on your face? Awesome. Also you seem to love my SeaPigeons who are finally living up to their given name. All of this is great.

But Jen, why all the hate on camping? Yup, been camping in the Northwest (that is to say, the rain) for over 50 years as well. What is there not to love about camping? The opportunity to get close to nature (small rocks which grow to boulders under your sleeping bag, mosquitoes the size of hummingbirds, and the everlasting damp), enjoy the solitude (wasn't there a report of bears in the area? Why did you bring the beef jerky into the tent?!?); and of course, the wonderful crackling campfire (kippered is such a great aroma, right?)

Yup, nothing like camping in the great Northwest. Give it a try, you might learn to love it. Or you might just buy a fully self-contained trailer, which is what hubby & I just did. 50 years was enough.

Jen said...

Oh Sweet Mother Mary in a macchiato. Tbunni, you have just enumerated all of the reasons why camping sucks big, hairy donkey balls. And for some ungodly reason, EVERY man I've dated wants to take me freaking camping. Do I look like Bear Grylls? Hell to the no.

Jen said...

TIFFANY - My son M actually has a great deal of empathy and adores babies. He has traditional Kanner's autism which manifests more in delayed social skills/interests and anxiety over transitions/changes, singular obsessions, and a receptive language delay. I'd trust him with a baby LONG before I'd trust J. J. can't remember jack-squat. Last week he came home missing a shoe. A SHOE. How do you NOT notice that? He'd totally wind up on Dateline NBC for forgetting his baby at Target.

Kelly said...

You. I'm crying. Dammit. Love you.

Janene said...

My Mom signed me up for week-long camping trips. After the first time I almost drowned, then the next time after sleeping on a rock, I told her the following summer that if she wants to play with Smokey the Bear, *she* can go, not me, and I'll stay home and cook dinner for Dad (I hate cooking, fyi).

That was the last camping trip I went on.

Brett Minor said...

I'm with you on the no camping things. We came out of the caves and built houses for a reason. Where is the joy in pretending to be savages? I still eat meat. That's as close to Neanderthal as I want to get.