When welcoming new families to your Cub Scout pack at the beginning of the school year, learning all the new names takes perseverance, practice and patience.
Even with those traits, remembering which Cub Scout is Evan and which is Devin still might take a meeting or two.
Now imagine the pressure of learning names when your pack’s roster includes twins — not one or two sets of twins but six.
“It was something of a ‘wow’ moment — something I had not even thought about until I started compiling the list of returning Scouts for this year, along with new Scouts who joined us after our big recruitment event,” says Ashley Michel, Cubmaster of Pack 136 from Baton Rouge, La., part of the Istrouma Area Council. “As I started to add everyone’s names to my roster, I was mildly amused when I saw how many had the same last name in the same dens.”
Michel, whose 9-year-old son, Garrett, is also in the pack, saw six sets of twins as a welcome challenge.
Through her own perseverance, practice and patience, she has found a way to warmly welcome Killian and Kyna, Harrison and Heath, Hadley and Hunter, Leo and Duke, Andrew and Everett, and Andrew and Matthew.
Telling them apart
Most of the twins aren’t in Garrett’s Webelos den, meaning Michel only sees them at monthly pack meetings and events — not weekly den meetings.
This makes telling each twin apart more of a challenge.
“It’s not a problem for their den leaders and friends, of course, especially after the first few meetings when they get to know everyone and spend time together,” Michel says. “I take extra effort to distinguish between the siblings as I hand out awards, recognize them for achievements and advancements, and talk to their parents at events.”
Michel isn’t shy about asking parents which is which — a question that parents of twins are accustomed to hearing. After doing so, Michel quickly writes down a note for herself.
Maybe one twin has his neckerchief under his collar while the other doesn’t. Maybe one has on red shoes while her twin has on blue.
“It’s important to me that every Scout be recognized as an individual, no matter who they are, so I try to get to know all of the Scouts in our pack,” Michel says.
The Cub Scout twins certainly appreciate this. But they mostly just enjoy a chance to have fun with their sibling and friends.
“You learn a lot of cool stuff,” says Andrew Kliebert, age 7. “You learn that it is good to help others.”
Adds Matthew, Andrew’s identical twin: “And it helps you become better at everything.”
Supporting the group
Just because twins look alike doesn’t mean they will act the same.
“Everyone has their own personality, their own friends, their own interests,” Michel says.
At a recent indoor rock climbing event, Michel observed that in some of the sets of twins, one was more bold while the other was more timid. But she was proud to see that all of her Cub Scouts supported one another.
“All the siblings, not just the twins but also those who have younger siblings in the pack, will encourage each other to try new things,” she says.
Moments like that remind Michel why she enjoys being involved in Scouting. In her day job as a public librarian, Michel works with people from all walks of life. She has seen people become so divided on hot-button issues that they can no longer communicate with each other.
On top of that, Michel has seen families where children are less interested in books and spending time outside and more intent on staring at screens.
“I feel as if Scouting solves many of these problems,” she says. “Not only do we get the kids outdoors and away from screens, but we also teach them valuable things, such as being courteous and kind, being trustworthy and helpful — things that every parent assumes their child will do naturally but really must be taught and reinforced.”
Enduring the pandemic
Michel says she feels proud to be a volunteer in Pack 136, which has been in operation since 1967.
When she first signed up her son, she also signed up herself — assuming she would only be a volunteer until someone “more talented and with more time to spare could take the reins.”
“But, as every Scout leader knows, once a leader, always a leader,” she says. “I saw how the children of those who volunteered were proud of their parents for leading.”
And so Michel has endured — and the pack has, too. During the pandemic, Pack 136 has remained active and continued meeting.
“We had virtual campouts where everyone camped in their living room or backyard with a Zoom-enabled device, we had Zoom pack and den meetings, virtual tours of the Smithsonian, and we still managed to have a good popcorn year,” she says. “We are very lucky as a unit to have so many wonderful volunteers, dedicated parents and a supportive chartered organization that helps us deliver this program to our kids.
“The fact that we have six sets of twins in one unit is the frosting on the cake that makes our unit even more special.”