|Original image by Robert Tadlock, Some Rights Reserved.|
So much about parenting is easy when it is still an ideal, but a whole lot harder when it becomes reality. It was easy, when my boy was little, to say he wouldn't be in Boy Scouts. It's harder now that Zip actually wants to be a Boy Scout. Now that he knows about Boy Scouts. Now that he sees his friends being Boy Scouts and "it just sounds super-fun, Momma." Now that he is trying to make his own Boy Scout uniform.
But Hubby and I are on the same page about this: We don't want our family to be a part of an organization that discriminates and, given Boy Scouts of America's current policy prohibiting gay scout leaders, that means no Boy Scouts.
It breaks my heart a little bit. It really does. It makes me sad that we have to say no to an activity I would otherwise love to say yes to. We've tried to find alternatives but to no avail. Sure, there are summer camps and in a couple of years Zip will be old enough for 4H, but at the moment there is nothing else quite the same. It also breaks my heart that a national organization, one so synonymous with boyhood and tradition and, I don't know, America, is still saying gay people aren't good enough and - as an organization - is sending that message to thousands of boys and young men.
Last night, when Zip showed me the little American flag he had made from felt and fabric paint and asked me to sew it onto his khaki button-down shirt, when he asked if he could wear his home-made uniform to school next week, when he got tears in his eyes as he told me, Yes, I remember why I can't be in Boy Scouts, I felt my resolve start to waver. That's what happens when our ideals butt up against reality, right? I started to wonder if I'm just being idealist. Are the Boy Scouts getting our message? Do they know that while some families are leaving the Scouts because of their decision last spring to let gay kids in, there is a little boy in Pennsylvania who isn't joining because the Boy Scouts are still keeping gay adults out? Are there other families doing the same? Do the Boy Scout powers-that-be care? Does our refusal to participate make a difference? Maybe... I said to my husband. No, he said, Zip has plenty of other activities. He'll be fine. I can always count on my husband to stand firm and to believe in the power of one.
We've talked to Zip about why we're saying no. We've explained, as best we can to a 6-year-old, how the rules of the organization leave certain people out based on who they love and not joining is our way of saying that those are rules we just won't play by. I hope that we're teaching him that sometimes we have to set aside what we want personally and do what we think is right and fair for everyone. We're teaching him that discrimination is never okay and should never be tolerated, even if it doesn't seem to affect him directly. We're teaching him that civil rights shouldn't apply to some people and not others. We're teaching him that small choices - like the choice of one family to join or not join - do matter. I hope that, in the end, Zip will learn just as much by not being in the Boy Scouts as he would by joining.
So far he's learned how to make his own uniform. So there's that.
I don't think he really understands yet, but I hope someday he will. I hope someday he doesn't just remember that his parents wouldn't let him be a Boy Scout, but he remembers why.