I was lucky enough to be involved with guiding from when I was 7 until I was 17. I joined Brownies and them moved onto Guides and eventually Young Leaders. I didn’t keep going when I went off to university, but all the non-school related experiences and friends I got to have through guiding have certainly been part of forming who I am today. I am very independent and feel I can do everything myself, even if help is available. I think that attitude is something I learnt from guiding.
When large boy was 6 he had a bit of a tough term at school, he was finding friendships hard to form and didn’t know how to cope with people blowing hot and cold. It all came to a head and, with the teacher, we decided to separate him from another child. The teacher (she’s amazing and very wise) encouraged him to play with the boy who is now his very best friend, they’re so similar and challenge each other all the time but also love each other dearly and stand up for each other if needed.
Just after that, he started Beavers. Between forming a predictable and reliable friendship and having the independence, less-structured experience at Beavers with a whole different group of children (none of his class went to his pack), his confidence grew and he settled into school so much better. After large boy had had a full term at Beavers, himself and I went “ahhh that’s what its supposed to be like”. We hadn’t realised how unsure he felt at school until he didn’t any more. I am convinced that Beavers is largely responsible for that change in him.
Last winter (2020, that is), he started Cubs just after the Christmas break. He was a bit unsure and found the older children very loud and overwhelming. Of course he’d gone from being the oldest at Beavers to the youngest at Cubs and he felt a bit out of his depth. He was invested just shortly before lockdown came along. Through the summer term our pack didn’t hold meetings virtually, they supported the parents and encouraged the children to work on badges from home. Come September 2020, they started district Zoom meetings with several packs all attending together and that continues even now from time to time. His pack had some meetings on Zoom as well and he quite enjoyed them, but not enormously. They made and learned lots of things, it was sometimes a mad panic to find toilet roll tubes or cotton wool balls or 5 elastic bands at 7pm on a week night. The last thing he made (the remit was just to use his imagination with a tube and paper and pens) was a WWII fighter in the sky (reading Going Solo evidently sank in more than he likes to admit).
Back to Cubs
So when the time came after Easter 2021, for large boy to return to Cubs at the Scout Hut (outdoors only) he was a bit nervous. They hadn’t seen each other in person in over a year, he’s still the only one from his class in his pack although children from the year above at his school attend too. But, he pulled on his old scruffy clothes (not uniform) and off he went. Fire lighting was the task, hence the old clothes.
An hour and a bit later, he bounded back into the house full of chatter about fires and marshmallows and what people had said and done – and stinking of wood smoke! Despite his anxiousness, he loved it! However, the smell forced an impromptu shower and change of bedding the following morning, I’m not sure his classmates would have appreciated the smokeyness.
Week two, they build obstacle courses and he came home filthy again. In the meantime, he’s also started sewing his old Beavers badges onto the blanket we bought for him to go on Cub camps. I hope he’ll have the opportunity to use it sometime in the not too distant future.
I’m so glad he’s settled back into Cubs well. He loves everything they do there and, whether he realises it or not, it helps him to be confident and comfortable in new groups.
Towards the end of large boy’s time at Beavers, they had a meeting at a local farm shop that also houses a bird of prey sanctuary. Himself was away somewhere and they wanted parents to help, so I went along and took then-4 year old small boy with me. Small boy was in his element. It was dark (October at 6-7pm), cold, rainy (we were under a marquee) and he didn’t know anyone. He didn’t care at all! There were sticks and bug hotels to build and even a Barn Owl to hold. There was no need for debate, he went on the waiting list to join Beavers. We knew he’d have to wait until now because Beavers starts 3 months before they’re 6.
Just before Easter 2021, the Beavers leader got in touch to make sure we were still interested. Small boy had completely forgotten and was not keen on the idea at all. So we decided he’d give it a try and see how it went, then he could decide whether to stay or not.
The Friday before the first session, we happened to see a Beavers child in the year above him when I picked him up from school. I told him that they’d see each other at Beavers on Monday and the other little said his sister, in small boy’s class, was starting too. Then she said that small boy’s best friend was coming as well. Perfect! All the fear and worry was allayed, his best mate would be there.
In the event his friend was off school sick that first day so small boy didn’t have the extra enticement. Himself stayed for the first session, but he wasn’t needed. Small boy just went off happily and joined in. Himself had a chat with some other parents and discovered another new starter had been at nursery with small boy before going to a different school. He loved it, got good and muddy and fell asleep as soon as he got into bed. The next week himself left small boy on his own for the hour and he still enjoyed it enormously. Bringing home a tree rubbing.
In case you didn’t guess, I love the opportunities and variety and dirty, messy, fun that scouting provides. If you want to know more, visit https://www.scouts.org.uk/. Honestly, its awesome! Not just because they get to do different things, but there’s an ethos of inclusion, fairness, equality and above all kindness and helping, all values that I want my children to hold in high esteem as they grow up.