Cubs, building the better child

SCOUTS South Africa recently received a letter from a Scout parent explaining the impact of Cubbing on his son. Since 2000 SSA has been open for girls and boys, however there are still a few Groups that only cater for boys. 1st Bergvliet Sea Scout Group in the Western Cape is one of them. Cub father Mervyn George wrote the following message on the impact that Cubbing has had on his family.

“I am a newbie father in the Scouts organization. My son, who turned 8 in February, has been a Cub member for just less than a year. He is loving it and so am I. In his book Raising Boys: Why boys are different – and how to help them become happy and well-balanced men, Steve Biddulph refers to the period between ages 6 and 14 as the phase when boys begin to emulate their fathers and look for more intimate bonding with them. During the years prior, boys would typically have seen their mothers as the dominant parental figure. I hadn’t realized it until reading the book that Cubs was already playing its part in providing a father figure role and I can certainly see how that will continue into the adolescent years when my son will be looking to other mentors for guidance to navigate this crazy and high pressure world we live in.

As the feeder group to 1st Bergvliet Scouts, the Cubs target children who are 10 and under – at this critical age of transformation. With weekly meet ups, the boys work together in groups of six (known as a Six). Each Six has a leader and each weekly gathering commences and retires with a flag ceremony. There is tradition and an element of discipline that, combined with the values embodied by the
organization, provides the necessary lessons in humility that many of our curious (feel free to replace curious with rebellious, oblivious or unresponsive) kids need to experience in order to become more grounded. With our children growing up in the heads-down era (where people naturally gravitate to screens as they become more convenient and more useful in daily life), it’s important to find ways to get them doing more outdoor and physical activities.

Not having known what to expect when we joined, I was pleasantly surprised to find my son integrating with kids of different schools and similar ages – kids who live in the surrounding communities – and doing everything from learning to strike a match safely, to building miniature boats out of recycled material and getting familiar with flags of countries. In less than a year, they’ve been exposed to (and been hands-on with) important life skills such as cooking, personal hygiene, frugality with water consumption, how to handle knives safely, and adequate preparation for a hike.

Over a weekend in May, we joined the 1st Bergvliet Sea Scouts Parent and Son camping weekend. Based at the Hawequas Scout Adventure Centre in Wellington, Cubs were actively engaged for the entire weekend. They learnt to use a compass, drew maps of the area and layouts of the buildings, learnt about fire safety, had to braai a meal for themselves and their parents, did outdoor PE on the mountainside, washed up their crockery and cutlery that formed their mess kits, and took turns in their Sixes to help carry and serve meals to the group. With 40 kids, plus their parents, in attendance I was amazed by the efficiency with which the Scout leaders pulled off the entire event and I am definitely signing up for next year’s event. The tasks expected of the Cubs over the weekend helped them earn at least one badge each for outdoor skills, which gets sewn onto their uniform to illustrate how they have progressed within the Scouts ranking system. Apart from the chores and valuable lessons learnt, they also had lots of fun – hiking on the mountain, an outdoor swim in a watering hole, finding a bum slide at the rock pools, building dens and bridges, plenty of informal play time as kids, hot chocolate and toasted marshmallows, and the highlight of a Cubs event – fun, singing and talent on display at the campfire.

As a dad in need of quality time with his son, getting the opportunity to pack our bags for the weekend together, packing and pitching the tent, doing a quick shop for a few weekend snacks, and having a few quiet moments together created a very rewarding experience. As my son gets older, I can see the value of his involvement. As a sea Scout, he’ll gain exposure to important water-based skills such as open water swimming, lifesaving and sailing. He’ll be surrounded by a group of like minded teenagers also seeking to find their identity and having to battle against ill influences. He’ll have adult mentors who will nudge him and his friends along a path that will help them become more engaged and more compassionate men, and he’ll become a good friend and ally to the people he cares about and respects.

Scouts will contribute to him becoming the boy and man his mom and I hope he becomes and the role model his younger siblings need him to become. If you’re looking for something fun and valuable to expose your child to, give Cubs a try. Before you know it, you’ll be embedded and loving every minute of it!” (Cub father Mervyn George)

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