This summer, I became a Cub Scouts mom and Den Leader.
I know. I’m surprised, too.
With a part-time job, my freelance writing and my position on the PTA Board of a new school, this was not quite in the plan.
My den is comprised of nine (soon to be 10) fourth graders. We have hourly meetings, once a week, with a 90-minute monthly pack meeting of all the dens combined. I am responsible for ensuring my scouts fulfill all the requirements of their rank, entering their achievements and accomplishments in the online tracking system, setting up relevant lessons and activities and otherwise maintaining order.
We camp, create, fundraise, and do service projects. The boys (and their families) also learn about first aid, cooking, fitness, engineering, art and fixing things around the house.
It’s been a pretty amazing and overwhelming experience.
I had no intentions of entering a leadership role. In fact, when I pushed for Cub Scouts last year (yes, I was the driving force behind it), I was adamant that it was going to be a father-son bonding experience. Since I was the one handling most of the homework and karate and extracurriculars, it would be good for them to have something to do together.
Of course, life is what happens while you’re busy making plans, and my husband’s travel schedule began to interfere with weekly meetings. Before I knew it, I was attending those, researching aerodynamic Pinewood Derby car designs and, at one point, co-leading a meeting when our den leader got sick.
I went camping for the first time. And I liked it.
At the end of last school year, our den leader announced he would not be returning. At first, it wasn’t a big deal. Someone always steps up to fill those roles, and I was sure we would have a new leader in short order. But as the weeks and months passed, no one came forward. I appealed to my husband, promising to be his backup, but with his work schedule, he didn’t feel he would be able to consistently commit.
Finally, in a burst of insanity, I volunteered.
It’s crazy because I’m a behind the scenes kind of woman. I don’t like being in the spotlight. Speaking in front of large groups triggers an epic perspiration response. I don’t want to make decisions and I don’t love being in charge. Mind you, I am a productive and efficient workhorse, but I have never been the one to reach out for the leading role.
So here we are.
I’m not going to lie. It’s time-consuming and it can be tough. Even with a leader’s manual, I spend several hours a week planning for meetings, collecting supplies and recording accomplishments. My calendar is full of weekly meetings, leader meetings, and extra activities. I field emails from parents, and from the leadership team and stay on top of what each scout needs to do to accomplish all his requirements.
I have to iron two uniform shirts, every four weeks. By the end of the year, I expect that I will be at least a competent ironer. No promises.
Each week, I am kept on my toes.
The ebb and flow of the activity don’t always go exactly how I planned, so I’m learning to be prepared and roll with the changes. It’s not so great for my Type A personality, but if the boys are learning and engaging, then it’s all worth it.
Monthly, I am required to get onstage and commend my Cub Scouts on their achievements via microphone. I flush bright red, my heart pounds in my throat and my palms sweat, but that seems so unimportant when those kids hear their names called and bounce over to accept their pins and patches with huge grins.
Our den and our pack have grown into a small family.
It shows in the friendships that have formed and the way families attend the voluntary events and outings. While I am technically a newcomer to the board and the leaders, they have welcomed me and mine (and my litany of questions) with open arms.
This has been one of the most challenging, humbling and rewarding experiences of my life. I am incredibly far out of my comfort zone. Thankfully, I am surrounded by such a supportive and wonderful team that I can mostly forget my anxieties and focus on my tasks.
Stepping up as Cub Scouts Den Leader was one of the best bursts of insanity I’ve ever had.