I’ll never forget my first experience as a Cub Scout leader. I was asked to serve in the Bear den of our ward pack. Hesitantly, I accepted the assignment and then went home to tell my new husband of only a few weeks about the calling. He, of course, was thrilled. I, however, was tentative. I had watched my brothers’ involvement in Cub Scouting from the sidelines, but beyond their pinewood derby races, I didn’t know much.
The next day I pulled out the list of boys I had been given and, despite my nervousness, picked up the phone.
“Is Caleb home?” I asked.
“Sure.” Within a minute I heard a 9-year-old voice.
“Hi, Caleb.” I said, trying to sound confident and knowledgeable. “This is your new den mother.” The line was silent. Then I heard an adult in the background.
“Who’s on the phone, Caleb?”
Caleb’s voice echoed his confusion. “My new….mother?”
I changed my tactics for the following six phone calls and introduced myself as a den leader, letting each boy know where and when we would meet. Then I purchased a yellow shirt and studied the Bear Handbook. Still, I was nervous about the upcoming meeting.
On Thursday afternoon, right on time, seven rambunctious boys showed up in my backyard. My supportive husband was on hand as an assistant leader, but he kindly left the meeting up to me. With all of the authority I could muster, I guided the boys through the Pledge of Allegiance, Cub Scout Promise, and an activity. My carefully laid plans were over in just a few minutes and I quickly found myself searching for a few Cub Scout games to entertain them until the hour was over. Still, by the time the boys tumbled home out of our yard I felt a sense of satisfaction that I had done it! I was officially a Cub Scout leader.
One week led to another and soon I started to enjoy my Cub Scouts. Despite their energy, they were sweet, eager boys who were hungry for action and recognition. We went on scavenger hunts, explored nature, baked cookies, made crafts, and toured museums. What fun! When our first blue and gold banquet rolled around I was fully invested in the Cub Scout program. I’ll never forget staying up late one evening, planting gummy fish in cups of blue Jell-O for our ocean-themed dinner.
That first experience as a den leader soon led to more opportunities to be involved with and love Cub Scouts and the effective and inspired Cub Scout program.
My year as a Bear leader passed and my husband and I moved into a different neighborhood. This time I was called as a Cubmaster. Once again, as my first pack meeting rolled around I felt nervous and unqualified. But I bravely pulled out the Program Helps, rounded up a crazy outfit from our costume bin, learned some goofy applauses, and handed out awards to two dozen active Cub Scouts. And guess what? I soon loved being a Cubmaster as much as I had enjoyed being a den leader.
Needless to say, my Cub Scouting adventures have continued with multiple opportunities to be involved and serve. Does being a Cub Scout leader require energy? Yes! And ingenuity, planning, and commitment. It also involves an appreciation for boys, and the potential they hold in their eager, active personalities.
But the effort is always worth it. Years later, upon returning to visit that first ward we had attended as newlyweds, a grateful mother came up and thanked me for what I had taught her son in that long-ago Bear den. I often think back to my first “den mother” experience and feel grateful that I didn’t give up despite my initial insecurities.
And, I am especially thankful now, as a mother of my own Cub Scouts, for other good parents who willingly get involved to help boys in our ward. I need them to reach out to my sons with the same commitment and caring that I gave to that unknown list of boys. While “den mother” may be a term of the past, the truth is that our loving efforts do mother and support boys in an ever-changing world as they make their way along the path to manhood.
When the phone rings and a new, slightly shaky voice informs my 9-year-old about an upcoming den meeting, I feel grateful to that den mother, err….. leader. “Hang in there,” I want to say. “You are making a difference!”
How did you first get involved in Cub Scouting? What mistakes did you make? What lessons did you learn? Share your stories with us at ldsbsa.org.