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Friday, October 28, 2005

My Tiger Cub


Jack is in Tiger Cubs, an introductory level of Boy Scouts. With our schedule the way it’s been this year, I was not excited when Bruce signed him up. I told them, “This is your father/son deal, so leave me out of it.” How snotty is that? I feel like a turd.

Nevertheless, last night it fell upon me to sew some patches on Jack’s uniform. Would you believe this was the single biggest objection I’ve always had to scouting? (That and hiking in the bear-infested wilderness.) How the heck is it done? Are they actually sewed with a machine, rather than by hand? What kind of stitch? Wide or a straight line? They’ve got this coating on the back – can’t they just be ironed on? How do I do a sleeve?

But, I was feeling guilty for my lack of participation anyway, so I agreed and tried to be cheerful about it.

But first: the guilt. The guilt really began with a cake.

Bruce had told me that he and Jack needed to take a cake to their next meeting. It had to be one of three themes: Halloween, Harry Potter, or outer space. Bruce asked, pleaded, would I please just bake the cake? They would do the rest. I grudgingly agreed, wondering why they had to make a theme-cake when it was just a snack for the den. But bake it I did it, and it was relatively painless.

Then Bruce comes home, and he and Jack undertook to decorate the cake. Bruce had bought a bag of Starburst jellybeans.

Bruce pulled me aside and said, “Now, Honey, since this is a cake auction, I need to know how much Jack is allowed to bid on a cake.”

Cake auction? What cake auction?

Bruce explained that the cake they were making was not for a snack, but a fundraiser.

Aaaaah. The guilt began. I couldn’t imagine them pulling off a cake that anyone would want to buy. The wheels started turning with all the great cakes I could have made. Too late now.

But, back to the bidding budget.

Money has been tight lately. “Five bucks?” I suggested.

Bruce was quiet. Then he gently replied, “Uh, this is a fund-raiser. They go for quite a bit more than that.”

I was irritated and guilty. “Do what you think is best. I’m clueless about all this stuff.”

So, there I stood, watching Bruce and Jack agonize over getting the frosting the right shade of orange. Meanwhile, I was thinking about how my baby’s cake had to be sold before it would be eaten – that I should have known this; I should have helped; I could have made a kick-ass, robo-, million-dollar cake. If I’d been even slightly more engaged and interested, I would have known about the auction, and things would have panned out very differently.

Once frosted, Jack, using nothing but jelly beans, decorated the cake, making pictures of ghosts and pumpkins. He was so proud of it. I offered to whip up some meringue ghosts to put on top, pulverize some of the chocolate cookies I’d just baked to make “dirt”, but he declined my guilt-offering. He was perfectly content with imperfection. He didn’t even realize what he was doing was “imperfect.” He was just proud of doing it himself.

I was touched and convicted on so many different levels, I could hardly speak.

That was on Wednesday night. Last night, Thursday, I was expected to sew the patches on Jack’s uniform. I hauled out the sewing machine and its instruction book (I can never remember how to thread it), and went to work. Things started out okay, but quickly went sour. Mis-threaded machine, sleeve sewn together, crooked den numbers, bird’s nests of thread. Ugh. It was awful. I was so discouraged and frustrated. But finally, they were all attached. I took the shirt to Jack.

“Son, I’m really sorry. But the numbers are crooked.” And I showed him where I’d screwed up (again).

Jack looked the shirt over and shrugged. “Looks fine to me. You did a great job. Thanks!”

I was insistent. Can’t ever leave anything alone. “Jack, it really is pretty bad.”

Jack got mad. “Mom! I am going to ‘talk-back’ you now, and you are just going to listen to me: the shirt is great, you did a fine job, now quit saying bad things about yourself!”

Whoa.

So, he put on his shirt with the substandard sewing job, and took his prized cake to the auction. I hunkered down and waited, filled with anticipation and dread.

When they came home, Bruce told me that Jack’s cake received the lowest bid of the night - $6. (The highest bid of the night was $55.)

But then, the $6-guy, who originally won Jack’s cake, put it back on the auction block, where it later went for $17. So the total collected for the night on our cake was $23. Not too bad.

Jack felt great about his evening, and was thrilled about the $25 cake he “won.” Especially, because of the toy monster truck that was stuck on top. After licking the frosting from the wheels, he slept with it next to his pillow.

I have to admit, I’m still feeling a bit guilty for not being more involved. Especially in the face of Jack’s extraordinarily gracious attitude. To have my shortcomings and negativity met with such love, gentleness, and affirmation from my own child is a lot like getting a glimpse of the face of God.

Saturday, November 5th, is Jack's first pinebox derby. It’s at 9am clear across town. Also that morning is the semi-annual book-sale at the library, and the best holiday bazaar in town, which happens to be at Jack and Sabrina’s school. This I know for certain: whatever else happens that busy day, I will not be missing the derby.

5 Comments:

At 9:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Go Jack GO! xox-K

 
At 9:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh and a certain 8 year old friend has never been allowed to join even though he really, really wanted to be a Tiger Cub...because his lazy Mom (and Dad)couldn't handle the time commitment. NO GUILT.

 
At 7:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having been to many pinewood derby car races in my younger years (with my brother and dad), you won't be disappointed!!

Mary G.

 
At 9:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a former Tiger/Cub/Boy Scout parent now Boy Scout Advancement Chariman I appreciate crooked numbers, jellybean cakes and parents who put forth time and effort like this (despite feeling like a turd and all).

 
At 5:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hooray for Jack! And good luck in the Pinewood Derby! Maybe you can swap scout stories with Brendan in March :-)

And Linda, try this beautiful product...Badge Magic (if I sound like an advertisement, it's because I've tried sewing the @#$% things on by hand). It's peel-n-stick adhesive which a) works, b) is easy, c) doesn't come off in the wash, and d) can be removed wholesale with WD-40.

www.badgemagic.com

I grovel at their corporate feet.

Liz :-)

 

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