Last Wednesday we celebrated our scouts. It was Court of Honor and the boys’ troop had been working hard all year to earn MANY merit badges. In fact, a total of 80+ merit badges were handed out that night.
The night was also a special night for two young men in the troop that had earned the rank of Eagle, an achievement earned only by 4% of Boy Scouts worldwide. So the night was a big celebration as the troop and the scouts had much to be proud of.
The turn-out was impressive and special care had gone into making it a memorable night. There was special care put into the decorations and the tables and slideshow highlighting the journey of our two Eagle Scouts.
The evening began with our cub scouts leading the flag ceremony. Tyler opted not to wear his uniform and not participate in the flag ceremony. We were having a rough night and as much as we celebrated Rusty’s accomplishments I mourned for Tyler who was negatively triggered by the entire experience.
The night began with rank advancements and leadership changes within the troop. Rusty will now serve as the assistant senior patrol leader in his troop.
He also advanced to the rank of Life Scout. With each advancement the badge for the scout is accompanied by a pin for the mother which the son pins on the mother as part of the ceremony, acknowledging the important role the mom holds in her son’s life. It is always a special experience.
The next step for Rusty is to earn his Eagle and begin planning for his big Eagle project.
Then came the distribution of merit badges.
Ozzie had earned his plumbing merit badge. He didn’t attend scout camp this year and is just getting into scouting so his single merit badge is reflective of his new role in scouting, but he was thrilled to get his first merit badge and can’t wait for it to be sewn on his sash.
Rusty earned 10 merit badges including: First Aid, Movie Making, Wilderness Survival, Citizenship in the Nation, Plumbing, Pottery, Wood Carving, Sculpture, Photography and Metal Working.
Even Tyler earned an award that night. In cub scouts they don’t award merit badges, instead the cubs get belt loops.
We didn’t realize he would be earning any awards that night or we would have prepared him for the experience better. Instead he was called up to the front unexpectedly and presented with his award. I could tell immediately that he was struggling. As I stood at the back of the gym, taking pictures, I saw him shutting down.
I approached and found him chewing manically on his newly awarded (metal) belt loop, determined to make it disappear, literally trying to “swallow” the hard emotions that were consuming him.
I was finally able to get him to trade the chewed piece of metal for gum, knowing he needed to chew on something to release the anxiety that was consuming him.
The rest of the night was a mixed bag of emotions as we celebrated Rusty and watched our new Eagle scouts receive their awards while simultaneously addressing Ozzie’s hurting behaviors and Tyler’s retreat into his own head.
We stayed long enough to let the kids all get a plate of food but then headed home.
The struggle continued through bedtime routines with Ozzie trying to get someone to engage in a fight, so as to feed the emotional need for chaos and confrontation, while Tyler became more and more shut down. I found myself bouncing between both boys trying to help them processes their emotions, identify the trigger for those hard emotions, and apply the healthy coping strategies they have learned from their therapist.
Both boys were struggling with Toby’s absence that night, particularly Tyler who publically received an award without Daddy being there to see it. It seems silly and unimportant to someone who has never experienced loss, but with years of combined experience parenting behaviors and having to identify triggers for boys who have experienced early childhood trauma, I knew it was much bigger and more significant than Daddy simply not being there for an awards ceremony.
And as I sat with Tyler and Olive on Tyler’s bed, trying to help him express what he was feeling, it finally came tumbling out in a flood of tears and words. Receiving that award made Toby’s absence more apparent which led to this distorted thought process:
“Daddy may never come home.”
“Parents can’t be trusted.”
“My birth mom left me and never came back.”
“Daddy will probably abandon me just like my birth mom did.”
And all that turmoil and heartbreak was stemming from a cub scout award ceremony.
I sat with him for hours. We worked through the emotions and the thoughts until he was able to calm down. I watched as the tension released and the fatigue overcame him. Olive lay beside he providing a calm that allowed him to express his feelings and fears in a unprecedented way.
It was a “breakthrough” for Tyler from a therapy standpoint, absolutely huge in its significance.
The hurt inflicted on these boys did damage bigger and deeper than the mind can fathom.
I pray that a day will come when they both will be able to truly trust our words and loving intentions as parents…
That they will believe we are staying and won’t abandon them…
When they will fully accept our love without fearing it will be stolen from them or will result in more hurt…
That when we love they will love back without pushing away.
It will take years to reverse the damage done by those that should have loved, protected, and stayed,
and they may always struggle to fully believe in our love,
but we will keep showing up, giving, loving and forgiving as we pray for a healing of hearts.
Congrats to all three of my scouts for their accomplishments that night,
and I’m not just talking about the merit badges.