Confessions of a Den Mother


I first began worrying about being a Cub Scout den mother when my son was about 20 minutes old. After counting his toes in the delivery room, I fell into an uneasy sleep. I dreamed that 10 Cub Scout babies in disposable diapers were chasing me. I awoke in a cold sweat and spent the next eight years stewing over the inevitable.

When the day finally came for my first den meeting, I felt apprehensive but prepared. When the meeting ended at 4:30 P.M., I was sure my teeth were permanently clenched together under my smile and that my hearing had suffered irreparable damage. My own son had definitely been the loudest and worst.

I learned some basic truths quickly:

  1. 1.

    Under no circumstances should you hold den meetings in your own home if you have white carpeting or a nervous dog.

  2. 2.

    The three conditions of a Cub Scout uniform are (a) dirty at home, (b) dirty on the boy, or (c) clean but lost.

  3. 3.

    Two pairs of scissors cannot be equally divided among six boys.

  4. 4.

    If your own son is in the den, he will refuse to treat you as a den mother but will instead treat you simply as Mother.

  5. 5.

    The three conditions of Cub Scout books are (a) lost or forgotten; (b) in pieces, held together with rubber bands and paper clips; and (c) empty, as in devoid of any signatures or evidence of work. Several conditions may coexist at any given time.

  6. 6.

    Speaking of time, it’s relative. When you are reading a good book, an hour is hardly measurable. When you are in the midst of an unsuccessful Cub Scout craft project with nine boys ages eight to ten, an hour is hardly endurable.

  7. 7.

    An hour is sometimes longer than 60 minutes, since at least one mother is generally late to pick up her son after each meeting. This is especially true if the den mother has company coming for dinner exactly 60 minutes after den meeting.

Despite truth 6, the time, surprisingly, has passed; and my sanity, astonishingly, is intact. Den meetings held at the neighborhood school library, where there is no white carpeting or nervous dog, were mostly successful and often enjoyable. My ears grew less sensitive to the enthusiastic noise, and now I clench my teeth only at night. Although the books and uniforms remained elusive, the rewards were tangible.

My son turned ten and advanced to Webelos. Content, I was ready to abdicate my responsibilities. Luckily, I had another son who would turn eight in a few weeks, and I confess I was happy to stay on as den mother.

[illustration] Illustrated by Steve Kropp

Bette Newton Lang is a member of the Moses Lake Third Ward, Moses Lake Washington Stake.