When Saw We Thee An Awkward Preteen?

I have a son named Peter, who is magnificent. He is also complicated–the diagnoses are varied and not often terribly useful: pervasive developmental disorder, obsessive-compulsive tendencies, sensory integration dysfunction, non-verbal learning disorder. The alphabet soup of diagnostic acronyms mostly means that some things most of us do without thinking are hard for him, things like finding a shirt that he can bear to have touch him and shoes that fit exactly right, taking a shower, going to a movie, packing a school lunch, regulating difficult fluctuations in mood with medicine and hard work. Hardest of all is finding a friend. None of his troubles are as visible, or as easy to feel sympathy for, as many disabilities. It sometimes takes a while for people to see past the quirky and difficult behavior to the boy who can make anything–ANYTHING–out of cardboard and duck tape, whose eyes well up while he reads Little House on the Prairie (he is so going to kill me for this when he’s older!),who is heartbreakingly tender and protective with little children, who is planning to go to Harvard because he knows how to get home on the subway from there, who likes nothing better than to be at the tail end of the Elders’ Quorum moving brigade and will cheerfully carry boxes for 8 or 10 hours.

Peter is one of two Boy Scouts in our ward’s troop, and the other one doesn’t come very often. But the Scoutmaster is there every week, and not just there, but well-prepared, with a new skill to impart, a challenge, a treat. Tonight he pulled into the church parking lot with a half-dozen 12-foot long poles tethered to the top of his Civic, and my boy came home a couple of hours later, his face shining with joy, to tell me about the suspension bridge (!) they were working on.

I paraphrase: Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
For I was an hungered, and ye gave me an ice cream sandwich: I was bored, and ye took me camping: I was a little uncoordinated, and ye played a dozen games of PIG with me; I was sad and ye taught me to tie knots; I was lonely, and ye knew that building a suspension bridge would be just the thing…

Blessed are the Scoutmasters.


  1. Julie M. Smith says:

    Awwwww, I love this. Perfect.

  2. amen.

  3. Wonderful, how blessed is your son!

  4. Kevin Barney says:

    I was clueless at the time, but as I look back on adults who gave up their limited, precious vacation time, or who camped out overnight in the snow in January, I stand in awe. Blessed indeed. And it wasn’t just men; my scout leader for a long time was a woman who was a megascouter and hell on wheels. I learned so much from that woman.

    (Peter really is a great kid. And he throws a mean baseball!)

  5. That’s a real man.

  6. What a cool story.
    Let’s forward this post on to every YM/YW president and scoutmaster we know! :)
    Thanks for sharing.

  7. Thanks for this, Kristine. I am going to pass it on to a few people in our stake.

  8. Expressed very well indeed. –

  9. Steve Evans says:


  10. And again I say, Amen.

  11. Terrific, Kristine. Oh, to have leaders who don’t think you need a “troop” to have a great time scouting.

  12. wow. I have a son named Peter, too, but it is the son named Michael who has the bipolar, the sensory integration, the OCD and on and on and on. He is almost 18. I wish my guy had had a scout leader like that. Wow. His biggest sorrow is not having friends, too. He has been praying and praying that one day he would–then, Sunday we had a miracle. Our ward joined (sorta–it’s complicated) with the other ward in our building and lo and behold, there is a young man just a few years older with special needs of his own who looks to be just the right fit for a friend for Michael. I’m here for you, sister, if you need anything.

  13. Thanks for this, Kristine; definitely gives me more motivation to magnify my calling.

  14. Fantastic.

    I was the only deacon in my ward for over a year, and while we didn’t have a scout troop, the adviser did stuff with me every week. He was building a house at the time, and we spent a lot of time at the building site, eating donuts and him explaining how to do the framing, showing me the electrical work, etc. He would take me on hikes through the hills on weeknights — following a coyote at night is still an amazing memory. He was in many ways a dysfunctional man, but he showed me a good deal of love.

  15. I married a man like the Scoutmaster you described. And I have never felt one twinge of resentment for all the hours he has spent with the Young Men (over 7 years now…?).

    Beautiful post.

  16. I second Ben in the “this gives me more motivation.” Thank you, and a future thanks to Peter for understanding why you shared this.

  17. Wow. You almost make me think we should actually participate in the BSA.

  18. JaneAnn, I have sometimes needed convincing, myself.

  19. Sweet. I liked Little House on the Prairie too, and look how I turned out. 8)

  20. Thanks Christine

  21. Thank you, Kristine.

    You have a scoutmaster who “gets” his calling.

    I have taken the liberty of forwarding a link to the Scouts-LDS scoutmasters list.

  22. I was well into my third hitch as scoutmaster when I figured out that all the knots, lashings, firebulding and morse code exercises weren’t important in themselves, but rather served as reasons for me to start caring about those young men. Margaret Nadauld is a former general YW president, and she said that the purpose of the YW and YM programs of the church are to “expand the circle of caring adults” that should surround each of our precious young people. It is good to hear that Peter’s scoutmaster has already figured this out. I am especially impressed that he forges ahead with enthusiasm even when the situation is less than ideal. Many professional scouters would probably have a major cow if they heard this story. Where is the scout committee? What about the patrol method? Where is the 2 deep leadership? Those things are all important, but I think it is clear that this scoutmaster has chosen the better part.

  23. I should add that I also am the beneficiary of a scoutmaster much like this one. There were only 4 of us in the troop, and I can remember that he had us over to his house where we used lodgepole pine trees and ropes to build a signal tower, about 50 feet high. Yes, is was super hokey, but I did learn which knos suit which purposes, and how to tie them properly. When it was finished, we called it the King Benjamin tower, although we also used it as a Zoramite rameumptom. Today that man rates right up with my father, grandfather, and mission president among the men who have influenced my life.

  24. I was a scoutmaster in my previous ward in Maryland. Since moving to Nashville I have different calling. I miss being a scoutmaster even more after reading your post. It has been a while since a post brought me to tears. Thanks.

  25. You could well put in Laurels Advisor for Scoutmaster, of course.

    I was recently called as YM President.
    I have one schizophrenic, one with bipolar disorder, two with Autism, one with ADHD, One with sever anger management issues, and three that are about normal and thus have normal issues.

    Thanks for the reminder that it makes a difference.

  26. Thanks Kristine, a marvelous post.

    I’m so glad Peter has a great leader. We have had some of the best men in our ward working with our scouts. They’ve made a huge difference in my 13-year old’s church experience.

  27. Kristine:

    Great post. As the father of 5 sons I take great comfort that they will have the experience of interacting with YM’s and Scout leaders during their teen years.

  28. I love it when a Scoutmaster gets it that it’s not just about getting the boys to their eagle badge, but about getting boys to adult life. A couple of the greatest lessons I learned in life were from scouting, and had nothing to do with the rank advancements. As a former scoutmaster and father of five boys, I’m thrilled for you and your son. And for the scoutmaster. I hope he gets to red this, too.

  29. Arrrgh, # 28, “to READ this”.

  30. Token Average Member says:

    You made me cry at work but it was worth it. I needed to be reminded that there are still some good folks out there.

  31. This was a very tender post, but on the heels of that “all men with mustaches are creepy and probably perverts” post, I don’t hold much hope for the idea that we readily embrace differences or are even kind people.

  32. Roseannah, I think Amri had her tongue firmly planted in her cheek. We keep her around to dilute my smarmy sentimentality.

  33. No, amri was serious. But the data are on her side.

  34. wow, yes, I was kidding about the mustache thing.

    Kristine, the wonderful thing to me is that this Scout leader wouldn’t have to do all this stuff with Peter and he could still be good at his calling, he could still be a good person, but he sees this one kid, the only kid that comes and he decides he’s going to help him build a suspension bridge! really fantastic, I hope you make this guy a lot of your great cheesecake.

  35. Uh, I mean, Steve’s right. I was serious. Very, very serious.

  36. Beautiful post. It reminds me of one poster on another thread who wrote “Heaven bless those who take interest in someone’s teen” (or something like that). So true.

  37. Matt Thurston says:

    Actually had to close my office door for a minute to compose myself. My oldest son is a “Peter” in his own special way, and thinking of the challenges that lay ahead, and the thought that there may be “Scoutmasters” out there for him reduce me to water…

  38. Amri,

    You probably know this, but the scoutmaster wasn’t helping Peter make a suspension bridge. That (along with the muddy camping equipment and the dorky uniforms) is just an excuse to get to know Peter better and a way to teach cooperation, attention to detail, manual dexterity, etc.

    Scouting, done well, isn’t a recreational activity with badges and uniforms. Rather, it is a way to foster character, citizenship & fitness. Done poorly, it is a recreational activity with badges and uniforms.

  39. I get that it was meant to be a joke, but there are some things it’s never okay to joke about, in certain ways, and in certain venues. It’s one thing to say you’re not personally physically attracted to a certain kind of look for a sexual parter, but to categorically point fingers and giggle in the electronic playground at someone’s grooming choices is puerile at best and puerile at worst. Is it really ever okay, even in jest, to say that this characteristic or that trait is a sign that someone might be a a child molester? And on a religious-themed blog? Seriously? Maybe at some singles ward sleepover at some snarky stake it’s keel to laugh at people and, when caught, say “I kid! I kid! Lighten up!” And speaking of kids, let’s hope the subject of this post doesn’t grow up to be gay, or in love with somone of another race, or want to grow a “percy mustache” or have any other trait that Mormons may have a tendency to mock. Because he just might not get the joke.

  40. Roseannah, we weren’t making Holocaust jokes. Lighten up. Seriously.

  41. Actually, Amri has met Peter, so she knows that with this one, it really might be all about the suspension bridge. This is a kid who tried to saw the legs off his bed to eliminate potential monster habitat when he was scared at night AS A 4-YEAR-OLD!! An engineering kind of brain if ever there was one.

  42. S.P. Bailey says:

    Yes. Great post. My troop was huge, and the smart-ass quotient (the thirteen-year-old force!) was strong with us. Yet our leaders were endlessly patient, good-humored, generous with their time, and so on.

    I remember when we got caught throwing snowballs at cars on Main Street in Centerville en mass after a troop meeting. In an effort to keep us out of trouble, our scout master volunteered to drive laps around the church parking lot in his old Subaru Legacy while we pounded it repeatedly with snowballs. Thanks again, Brother Allred.

  43. Thanks for sharing this with us. It was very touching.

  44. We have a “Peter” he’s 33 years old and has a life of his own. My wife and I know what your going through, sometimes you get the great scout leaders and sometimes you don’t. Even in the church you get those that walk away when your loved one approaches, such is life. Remember when the apostles asked the Savior who did sin that this boy was born blind, he or his parents? The Savior replied, neither, but that the glory of God would be made manifest. HOW? The blind boy would go out and do some great thing? Glory of God made manifest, YES. The boy shows how God made him see again, the glory of God made manifest, YES. How we as brothers and sisters treat that blind person, or cancer ridden patient,or mentally ill patient, or homeless person, do we manifest the glory of God in our actions? IF WE DO IT HIS WAY, YES, YES and YES again. Our son will never be well, like before, but we have him for the eternities. Thank God

  45. Ponty Ficator says:

    I also think it’s funny that on this blog in the fast few weeks there have been a couple posts about not judging appearances/not laughing at differences “Kids can be A-holes; don’t mock my little brother…Don’t mock my awkward preteen”, yet when it’s an “other”–it’s okay to laugh and brush it off with “We’re not talking about the Holocaust (way to invoke Godwin’s Law.”

    Either it’s okay to laugh at people with differences or it’s not. Whether it’s a mustache, a limp, a lisp, dark skin, Asperger’s, social awkwardness–let’s laugh at all of them and just get over it already, or let’s not laugh.

    I just think these posts lately have all been weird.

  46. It is funny Ponty. Hilarious, even. May I suggest that this is a threadjack? You (and roseannah) may feel free to continue in this vein back on Amri’s thread.

  47. Or you can be satisfied that if you wrote it once, then I got it. You don’t think I’m funny. Really, I got it.

    Don’t put this stuff on Kristine’s thread though.

  48. As janeannechovy already said awhile up, almost thou persuadest me to endorse the BSA, Kristine.

    Beautiful post.

  49. We have Maggie–a female version of Peter, and she is just as talented with boxes and duck tape. As my wife and I read your post today we were both bathed in tears. Maggie went to girls camp for the first time this summer and we will be forever grateful for those Young Women’s Leaders who encircled her in arms of love. We have forwarded your post on to those leaders–and to our Stake Young Men’s leaders. Thank you!!

  50. This is really touching and beautiful, Kristine. I forwarded it to Troy, who read it at his Scout committee meeting last night.

  51. this was sent to me as a fwd in an email and has made my day. I hope I can work this story into a YW lesson. Thanks So Much for sharing

  52. Kristine, I actually got a little teary reading this. I know just a smidgen of what you’ve been through and I know it hasn’t been easy. I’m in Primary now in our ward and we’re just getting scouting going. It’s an inner-city ward and I am so excited because the boys in our ward really do need a little extra something. The people they called to be scoutmasters are awesome so I have great hopes.

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