My son, Jarl, is a Cub Scout. There was much debate in our house about whether or not this was a good idea. We live in a fairly conservative area with a hefty amount of competitiveness, both values we do not want our children to identify with. We also strongly support gay marriage and alternative family structures – in our world it is simply love that makes a family. After hearing some disturbing news coverage regarding their policies on gay leadership and religion, let’s just say we were more than a little uneasy about letting him join. When he came home from school, information in hand, we filed it away hoping he would forget about the whole thing. He didn’t. Not even close. He asked us every day for weeks if we had made a decision about him joining. He really, really wanted to be a Cub Scout.

We finally acquiesced after deciding on three things. First, if he ever encountered people who’s values didn’t jibe with ours, he should tell us right away. Secondly, Eric would volunteer to be the leader so he could set the tone for the den. Lastly, we realized that Jarl is strong enough to speak from his heart should he feel called to do so. I know, we probably over-thought the whole thing, but it’s what we do. As it turns out, Jarl’s den is small, with just three boys total and the meetings happen at our house, in the art space. It’s a silly group of misfits, the boys bond over manga and math and Legos. It’s hilarious to listen to what they talk about. They are all the quiet kids in class, the bookish ones who don’t play sports. It’s perfect that they have found each other.

This past week was a flurry of activity in preparation for their pinewood derby. Most of the boys had never used any sort of tool before, so there were late night cram sessions to finish getting their cars cut, sanded, painted and ready to race. Eric insisted that the boys do the majority of the work themselves so they could take ownership of their accomplishment. They built their cars. All by themselves. In Jarl’s little den it wasn’t about who would be the fastest, or who’s car had the best paint job, it was about making something from beginning to end with their own two hands. They focused not on the outcome, but on the process itself.

Jarl told me on our way to register his car the night before the race that,

I might not win, Mama, but my car is just the way I wanted it to be.

I’m so proud of this boy.

He spent race day cheering for his friends and laughing with his sisters. He would never say so, but I think he was happy that they were there. Three rowdy red-heads make a fantastically loud cheering section. He didn’t win, but he didn’t loose either. He was blissfully unaware of the more serious competitors and even hugged me in public. The whole experience was loud and crazy and pretty darn fun. I savored watching him just be a happy little boy, knowing these precious days are numbered. He’ll be a teenager in the blink of an eye.

From left to right in the front row are, The Phoenix Express, The Silver Sharingan and The Car of Art, all proud creations of Den 10.