A couple of weeks ago, our family returned home from a 10-day summer vacation, and I asked my 13-year-old son what he missed most about home. “Hanging out with Jared,” my son said. As a best friend to our son, Jared is just the kind of boy we’d hope for: a humble, kind young man, an all-A student, and one with a great family we really enjoy. This is very fortunate. Now that my son is a teenager, some unseen force has elevated his friends to superhuman status in his mind, with outsize influence over how he thinks about the world. Meanwhile, of course, my wife and I have each lost about 100 points from our IQs, putting his view of our intelligence and social standing somewhere below that of our cat and somewhere slightly above the fleas who live on her. Come to think of it, if the fleas could pay for college, we’d probably fall below them too.
While my wife and I search for a special pair of rose-colored glasses that will help our son see us as he did just a year ago, we can at least be thankful that we brought Jared into his life by recruiting him into Cub Scouts back in third grade. Like other boys in my son’s Scouting patrol, Jared is influencing my son, and thankfully in the best of ways.
Looking back, my wife and I just recently realized the incredible power we had over our son’s future five years ago when he was a Cub Scout and we recruited the best of his friends into our den. At the time, we had no grand plans for fine-tuning our son’s eventual adolescence. We just thought nice tykes would have more fun together, and we’d enjoy spending time with other nice parents. That all turned out to be true, but the real treasure has been the positive influence these kids have had on each other through the years.
Studies of Scouts have shown that those who spend five or more years in the program (at any age) have a nearly 90% chance of having lifelong friends, versus about 75% for non-Scouts. (For a list of other proven, lifelong benefits of Scouting, see this essay.) We parents have a window of opportunity while our sons are in Cub Scouts to influence enormously the company they will keep as teenagers, which, of course, influences the boys’ attitudes about everything. We exert this influence, of course, by recruiting families to Cub Scouts who share our values. Among the families who did join our Cub Scout den, many have continued on to Boy Scouts, and, if he had his way, our son would spend all his time with those fine kids. How lucky are we?
With our younger son, a lad with boundless energy and now a Wolf Cub, we’ve got another chance to shape our child’s future by inviting the best young boys we can to experience Cub Scouts with him. We’re going to work even harder to grow the size and the quality of our group because we know that one day as a teenager, he’ll be surrounded by the best friends we could pick.