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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

When You Get Your Eagle, Son, You Can Drive

by Pete Codella (bio)

This may be a completely foreign concept to some, but when I was a teenager it was fairly popular for LDS parents to tell their sons that they had to earn the rank of Eagle Scout before they could get their driver’s license. Obtaining a driver’s permit was fine, but for solo driving once you reached the legal age, you were obliged to also secure the rank of Eagle Scout.

I was very active in Scouts when we lived in Spring, Texas. I loved the activities, earning merit badges, campouts, cooking in the great outdoors - all of it. But when I was 13 we moved to upstate New York where the Scouting program was, well . . . different than it was in the great state of Texas. So I pretty much slacked-off and didn’t do a whole lot to advance my Scouting rank.

Then, as I began talking about getting my driver’s permit after I turned 16, I was informed that I would need to finish up my Scouting work and get my Eagle before I could get my driver’s license. That seemed like just a convenient excuse to me, but I decided to finish up a handful of remaining merit badges and take care of my Eagle Scout project so I could receive my Eagle. After all, it wasn’t like I didn’t enjoy Scouting. (You can check out my Eagle Scout program here.)

The only bummer was that I was giving in and jumping through hoops, so-to-speak, to make my parents happy in order to secure the privilege of obtaining a driver’s license. Yes, I have an independent streak that still works for or against me, depending on the circumstances.

At least my folks helped me with merit badges and with my project. And when I finally obtained the rank of Eagle just before turning 18, I was grateful for the experience. I remember a real sense of accomplishment and honor. I have no hard feelings for the fact that my parents used my driver’s license as leverage to motivate me to finish up my Scouting achievements. I’m glad I’m an Eagle Scout.

But what was understood in the discussions, or at least implicit, was that my younger siblings would be held to the same standard. Namely that my sister would need to receive her Young Women’s recognition and my brother would also need to earn the rank of Eagle Scout. So that was copasetic. Imagine my dismay when my sister’s peer group shifted from church to her soccer league and my brother ultimately wanted nothing to do with any part of Scouting after the Cub Scout pinewood derby. Needless to say, the same standard for securing a driver’s license in my family was obliterated three years after it was set, then completely demolished, stomped on and destroyed again three years after that. I guess it wasn’t a standard at all. Now that I’m a parent I certainly get the concept and reality that each child is very different. I also see the importance of having family standards.

And you know what? I intend to motivate my son the same way I was motivated. He’ll need to receive his Eagle Scout before he can drive. Hopefully he receives his Eagle long before driving becomes an issue. And rest assured he’ll know it’s expected long before he turns 15, or even 12.

Also, we have the luxury of working with our daughter first. So the example will be set by her accomplishment in the LDS Church’s young women’s program. Then my son will need to follow through with his Scouting work as part of the young men’s program. Either that, or one or both of them can wait until they’re 18 and on their own to get their driver’s license. The key for me is that the bar is set long before they’re talking about getting a driving permit or license AND the requirement remains in place for everyone in the family. Them’s the family rules.

That approach, to me, seems appropriate and fair. Catch me in another dozen years or so and I’ll let you know how it all worked out.

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