DEAR ABBY: After reading the letter from "Proud Mom in Ohio," who was upset about the Cub Scout derby races, I recalled our solution to the problem of overly helpful parents.
In the U.S. Air Force, we had a real problem with actual rocket scientists and aerodynamic engineers. Some of the entries were so near perfection that we Cub pack leaders came up with the solution of classes of competition: beauty, speed, uniqueness, and the obvious "car completely built by the Cub Scout himself." The last category became the most coveted prize at the event.
Because members of the military are often subject to unplanned absences, we instituted a system whereby other fathers would fill in and assist a boy without a dad. When I supervised, I always insisted on "elbow grease" that resulted in a good job even by those young boys. My sons complained that I was overly enthusiastic when a youngster I assisted beat them. Their comment: "Did you HAVE to help him so good?" -- LARRY KRUGER, MAJOR, USAF (Ret.), VICTORVILLE, CALIF.
DEAR LARRY: Many readers identified with that letter. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I speak from experience when I say that "Proud Mom" can make a difference. Scout programs are run by volunteers. Cub packs have monthly committee meetings where these events are discussed and planned far in advance. She should join the pack committee and suggest changes in the way the derby is run to ensure that it is done fairly.
I have volunteered at all levels of the Boy Scout program, from den mother to assistant scoutmaster. The Boy Scout and Cub Scout programs need parents like "Proud Mom in Ohio," and I know her comments would be greatly appreciated. -- JO-ANNE CAMMORATA, HANOVER, MASS.
DEAR JO-ANNE: You're right. Change has to come from within.
DEAR ABBY: I am a single mom who raised my son alone. I had him join Cub Scouts so he could spend time with other boys and become involved in activities such as race car derbies. My father, a retiree, supervised while my son worked for hours on his car.
At the derby, the boys lined their cars up on a table. I could tell my son was embarrassed by his entry in comparison to the others. It was obvious that some of them had been made by the fathers. My heart went out to my son when his name was called and he picked up his crude-looking race car.
Believe it or not, he won first place!
My son is now 15, and in his bedroom he still displays that trophy, the car, and a photo of him and his grandfather taken on that special day. -- NEVER SO PROUD, JERMYN, PA.
DEAR NEVER SO PROUD: I understand why. It was his first major victory. Something tells me it won't be his last.
DEAR ABBY: That mother should do what we did on derby day. After watching the overly enthusiastic adults at the event, I suggested that the following year we offer them the chance to participate in their OWN race with their OWN cars. It worked like a charm! The grown-ups had a chance to strut their stuff, and it alleviated the need to take over their sons' project. -- FORMER SCOUT LEADER, DANVILLE, CALIF.
DEAR FORMER LEADER: YOU deserve a trophy for a clever solution.
NOT CONFIDENTIAL: Happy 84th birthday to the matchless "Sioux City Twins" -- my mother, Pauline, in LA, and Aunt Eppie in Chicago. -- LOVE, JEANNE
NOTE: The above birthday greeting was written three weeks ago. Today, with a heavy heart, I and the rest of the Phillips family offer our deepest sympathy to my Aunt Eppie's grieving family and loyal staff. -- JEANNE
To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)
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