It’s our turn to help with 7yo’s Beaver Scouts It’s a bit like Lord of the Flies with nicer uniforms & overseen by the WI
It was our turn to go and help at our son’s Beaver Scout group.
I didn’t really know what Beavers were, assuming that, like me, our son would start as a Cub Scout. However, Beavers are now the starting level for the scout movement and it was with them he started his time in scouting a couple of years ago.
I quite enjoyed my time as a cub and then a scout. Although my scouting career was relatively brief. Always a bit too independent and undisciplined for the Scout Master’s liking.
We have a Dutch friend who sends his son along under sufferance, mumbling constantly about how there are similarities between Beavers and paramilitary organisations in Fascist dictatorships. “The Hitler Youth started out like this!”
I’m not sure the Hitler Youth ever behaved like our Beavers. They’re way too chaotic for that. I can best describe the group as being akin to the Lord of the Flies, with nicer uniforms and overseen by the WI.
Parent helpers at Beavers are always given an animal name for the evening. The stoic ladies who run the group week in and week out (and consequently have my undying admiration) are called ‘Badger’, ‘Eagle’ and ‘Rhino’. (Guess which one is the disciplinarian?) They are ably assisted by a couple of venture scouts, ‘Fox’ and ‘Otter’.
J helped last. He went along some time ago and refused point blank to repeat the experience. Hence my turn this time around.
Asked to provide him with an animal moniker the assorted 6 and 7 year olds suggested ‘butterfly’.
Badger: “Butterfly! That’s a bit gay!”
J: ”If the cap fits!”
Badger looked a bit bemused, until the penny dropped and she went very red.
I should, at this point, explain that Badger is a retired adoption social worker, one of the nicest people you could ever wish to meet and would not have a homophobic bone in her body. She is however also completely dotty, caused most likely by her exposure as Beaver leader for innumerable years.
In preparation for this part of the evening, I had been hinting to 7yo about names like ‘Tiger’ or ‘Grizzly’ or something similarly butch being the appropriate name to shout out at my animal naming point.
Sadly, 7yo didn’t really get the ‘butch yet manly’ animal name hint.
Badger: “What shall we call <7yo’s> other Daddy?”
Me: (under my breath) “Charming!” I glare at 7yo, he shrugs, rolling his eyes with a ‘what have I done wrong now’ look.
Luckily the rest of the Beavers veto ‘Warthog’ as my animal moniker. Although, given the subsequent suggestions I begin to think that wasn’t too bad.
“Panda?” “Cockroach?” “Skunk?”
I’m caught between being flattered and appalled. They settle at last for “Bulldog,” I suspect as a consequence of my face at the thought of being called “Cockroach” or “Skunk” for the evening.
We get on to their activity for the evening. Beavers do something different each week, sometimes educational, sometimes not. I’ve spent my day hoping tonight isn’t their ‘drowning people’ or ‘burning people at the stake’ night.
Of course, I should be happy that we are not in the US where, I fear, given their homophobia, I would only be invited along to the Beaver Scouts ‘tarring & feathering’ meeting.
Luckily we are doing nothing more dangerous than playing ‘Fox and Goose’ and ‘British Bulldogs’ tonight. Activities entirely designed to burn off little boys’ excess energy.
The games concluded, Badger calls her sweating, panting group of 6 & 7 year old boys together. The Venture Scouts have lit a fire outside and we are to sit around it to sing campfire songs.
Really? Seriously? Who in their right mind thinks it’s a good idea to sit a couple of dozen 6 and 7 year old boys around a camp fire?
Anyway, out we go and the whole thing descends very quickly into a Joyce Grenfell comedy sketch.
“James, don’t do that dear, it’s dangerous”
“Alexander, I said no. No! Alexander. It’s dangerous to wave that burning stick at people.”
“No, Thomas, you may not put Edward’s shoe on the fire!”
Badger appears to be losing control. Fast. But then, along comes Rhino. Her mere presence stops the boys in their tracks. “Beavers!” she barks. The kids freeze. “We’re going to finish with a reminder about your scarves.”
The Beaver’s scarves are blue and grey and are worn in wide variety of styles by the attendant kids.
Rhino is clearly giving instruction she has passed on many times before. “Your scarf should have the blue section over the right shoulder! Make sure you tell your parents and GET IT RIGHT next week! You will lose points if it’s wrong.”
This would all be fine, except that….
I raise my hand hesitantly. “Yes, Bulldog,” Rhino barks
"Umm, Badger has her blue section on the Left?"
Rhino is clearly unimpressed with my scarf insubordination. She tuts, raises her eyes and gives me her best, disapproving stare.“Badger,” she says determinedly, “always gets her scarf wrong”
“Oh,” I reply. “Forgive me, but isn’t that a bit ‘do as I say, don’t do as I do’?
Tension fills the air as I hold Rhino’s gaze. “I think it’s time to go home, don’t you Badger?” She says.
Not sure I am going to be invited back.