Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Girl Scouts

Yeah, I know, it's been a long time. So long that I've forgotten what my default font is, so I apologize if this doesn't match my previous posts. 

Anyway, yesterday I'm minding my own business surfing the web when I get an email from Lucy's Girl Scout leader, who is actually a lovely person and, it must be said, is doing a job I would never in a million years want to do. So automatically she gets an extra 100 yards of slack, at least. This email informs me that I will need to stay at the Girl Scout meeting that night, because the Cookie Mom is going to explain about selling cookies to all the parents. This is a little bit of a pain in the ass, because I had planned to have John drop Lucy off at GS on his way to another meeting, which means he won't be able to stay, which means I'll have to take her after all. Still, as pains in the ass go, this is not even the biggest one that day, so no big deal. Far more concerning is the implication that the cookie selling will be explained to the parents. 

So we show up at the meeting (five minutes late, sorry, sorry) and Lucy hustles off with the other girls to work on constructing Christmas tree ornaments out of toothpicks, or some other equally valuable skill. I, meanwhile, am waved over to the Parent Table (or, more accurately, the Mom Table, with one dogged Dad sitting off to the side looking too exhausted to be offended by the genderedness of it all). There the Cookie Mom is explaining all the Important Cookie Information, like how to fill out the order form and not to knock on strangers' doors and how to take donations for our troop's charity, which by the way we need to choose. And all this time I am thinking one thing, which is that I am not a Girl Scout. 

Finally we get to the part where she tells us that we have to set the individual selling goals for the girls and the total selling goal for the whole troop, and I just can't take it anymore. "Um," I say, "shouldn't we be discussing this with the girls?" I say this in what I hope is a casual and offhand way but probably comes off as judgmental and bossy, because hey, it's me. They all look stunned. Discuss it with the girls? Why? Oh, I don't know. Because it's their troop and they're the ones selling the cookies to earn money for their troop and I thought the whole point of Girl Scouts was to teach girls independence and responsibility and of course to make Christmas tree ornaments out of toothpicks but really isn't the independence and responsibility just a teeny bit more important? I can't help but imagine Juliette Gordon Low sobbing in despair as she watches the parents set goals while their daughters attend to the important work of gluing bits of sponge onto poker chips (don't ask).

The Cookie Mom, to her credit, says that yes, that's a good idea. We should run all this by the girls. We should come up with the goals first, though, because they're not really able to set their own goals. Plus, another mom points out, we're the ones selling the cookies. 

Wait, what?

Now, I understand that taking the cookie order form to the office is a time-honored tradition, having ordered many cookies that way myself before I had a Girl Scout of my own. And I had already made a mental note to take advantage of another mom's suggestion to post on facebook. But, fundamentally, isn't this supposed to be a girl-driven project? Aren't they supposed to be the ones invested in it, planning it and making it happen? And if they can't set their own goals, well, isn't that part of what they're supposed to learn from an activity like this?

Because, let me tell you, that would be a fantastic thing for them to learn, and I'm not just saying that as someone who would like to think that her daughter might someday be able to schedule her own doctor's appointments and do her own grocery shopping. No, I'm saying it as someone who deals on an almost daily basis with nearly-grown-up kids who can't do those things. Kids who have no concept of how to set goals, let alone achieve them. Kids who have never really worked at anything, who often seem to not even understand what that might mean. Kids who, in spite of never working hard, have never failed, either, and are so risk-averse that I feel like telling Occupy Wall Street to just wait a few years because there's no pipeline in place to replace those Wall Street people anyway. Too risky. 

I won't lie. I'm disappointed in the Girl Scouts. From a noble beginning rooted in empowering girls, they have degenerated into a cookie-selling machine in which the girls don't even get to sell the cookies. But really, they're just following the crowd. I can't remember the last time I was at an activity for children that didn't involve parents hanging over the backs of chairs "helping". Parents often seem physically unable to drop their children off somewhere and, you know, leave. But I'll tell you what, we'd better start insisting that they do, or we are really screwed. Wall Street isn't the only thing that's going down if we don't start raising our kids with an eye toward their someday being adults.

Come on, Girl Scouts. Let's get ahead of the curve on this one. 


Anonymous said...

very,very well said--Beep

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with your stand that is FOR the girls and BY the girls. Please don't hold all of Girl Scouts responsible...the troop and local leadership...definitely! I have been cookie mom for many years. My cookie meeting is always with the girls. My parents get a note or email summarizing what the girls decided and highlighting the important dates so they can support their daughter, not do the work!