Annie is a Girl Scout. To be more exact, she’s a Daisy Scout, a designation that I didn’t even know existed before she requested to join her class’s troop last fall.
Ella never got bitten by the Girl Scout bug. Perhaps, to be more precise, I should say that I never brought her close enough to the critters to get bitten, by which I mean that I never offered Scouting as a possible after-school activity. She was taking swim lessons and dance classes and doing gymnastics (although not at the same time, unless you count her acrobatically choreographed aquatic hand stands), and between those and my own piano lesson schedule, I figured it was enough. I simply never brought up the possibility of joining Girl Scouts, and she never asked, and she remains happily un-Brownie-ed to this day.
I’d assumed that the same would go for Annie, but there I go again with the assumptions as a parent, which everyone knows means that I’ll get smacked upside the head by my own cockiness. Indeed, after only two Tuesdays (a month apart, no less) of watching her best buddies skip off to Daisies at the end of the school day, Annie begged me to allow her to join, too. It took me a couple of months to contact the correct people and fill out the proper paperwork – during which Annie’s determination and eagerness never waned – but finally, last January, she became a Girl Scout.
And, really, that’s the whole of it for me: Annie is a Girl Scout. Annie goes to the monthly after-school meetings. Annie listens to the stories and does the crafts and sings the songs and brainstorms ideas. Annie goes to off-site events and earns the patches and badges. Annie even irons on said patches and badges. (Don’t call CPS. She’s [very heavily] supervised. But perhaps I should leave more of the ironing-on to her, because then perhaps she wouldn’t try to iron on the non-iron-on-able patches. Even though they all look like they’ve got the special, glossy adherent on the back, turns out only some of them are iron-on-able. No matter how long you leave them under the heat and no matter how hard you press, they won’t magically stick to the vest, not even if you try it from 38 different angles; instead, they’ll need to be sewed. Or pinned, if you can’t really sew. Not that I have any idea what I’m talking about.)
I’ve got nothing against Scouting or camping. Five of the best summers of my life were spent at my all-girls camp in Canada, and I can still do a mean J-stroke and light a raging fire under even the dampest of circumstances. Just because I wasn’t a Girl Scout myself doesn’t mean that I’m not happy to have her become one, nor that I haven’t joined in with Annie from time to time. I’ve brought snack to meetings and participated in after-school activities. I’ve gone on hikes and helped my girl make SWAPS to trade with other Girl Scouts. I’ve helped her collect canned goods for those less fortunate. I’ve sung “Make New Friends” ad nauseam in the car, simply because she likes it.
But Annie is the Girl Scout. It is not a Mommy and Me thing. It’s about the girls. (Heck, I can’t even eat the cookies because they all have gluten.) Annie is the one learning to be fair and honest, considerate and caring, courageous and strong. She is the one learning to respect herself and others, to use resources wisely, and to make the world a better place — all of which is pretty fabulous. And frankly, she’ll learn a lot of that a lot more quickly and more powerfully if I step out of the way and let her get to it.
It seems that not all Girl Scout moms agree.
Annie was invited to an off-site event yesterday, held at a local Girl Scout camp. She and her fellow troop-mates would be making SWAPS, creating trail mix, going on a hike, and making crafts. It promised to be fun; she was psyched. She’s too young to be dropped off at an event like this, so I’d planned to join her, but mostly as a tag-along, a spectator, a cheerleader, not an active participant.
I’d had to take Ella shoe shopping (an event that deserves a post all its own), so some of Annie’s troop-mates’ moms helped shepherd her from activity to activity until I could join them. I made it for the SWAP-making (during which she needed a little assistance glueing things together) and the hike (during which she was paired with an older Scout, taking off down the trail without so much as a backward glance). It was an uncommonly warm autumn afternoon, but the hike itself was still quite lovely.
The final event of the outing was a campfire sing-along, with one of the older troop’s leaders guiding the Scouts through several campy tunes. There wasn’t enough room for both parents and girls to sit on the tree-trunk benches surrounding the fire, so I knelt down behind Annie, sharing her song sheet and singing the lyrics over her shoulder. Considering that I regularly sing my favorite camp songs in the car with my own children (except for “The Cat Came Back,” because I’d sooner kill the cat myself than sing about its never-ending misadventures), it was sweet enough. But after singing just one verse of “Hermie the Wormie,” I realized that a) Annie could do this just fine without me, b) she might even enjoy it more with her own friends, without me crooning in her ear, and c) singing about a cannibalistic worm that eventually belches out his digested family members really wasn’t my idea of a great afternoon.
Looking up, I noticed that I was pretty much the only one who felt this way, because the other moms were gamely warbling about Hermie’s digestive tales, doing the hand gestures and making ever-louder “WOO WOO!” sound effects. Just as I began to feel like the worst parent in the field, I saw them: the other moms from my troop, standing off to the side, watching, letting their daughters enjoy themselves, but not singing along.
NOT SINGING ALONG. *gasp*
I had found my people.
I left Annie’s side and wandered over to the loner moms, approaching them with a mixture of guilt and relief. I confessed that I felt a little terrible that I wasn’t particularly interested in serenading everyone with Hermie’s virtues. Before I could let the guilt settle in, one of them leaned conspiratorially into me and said, “Oh, God. Don’t even worry. We’re probably all going to be kicked out, because we just like to watch.”
What followed was a lively – but hushed – discussion about how thrilled we were for our own girls to participate in Scouts, but how little interest we, as their moms, had in being Scouts ourselves. A snack here and there? Sure. A hike from time to time? Absolutely. Ironing (or safety-pinning, ahem) patches onto little blue smocks? You got it. We would happily cheer our daughters on, but Girl Scouts was for our girls… not for us.
It was then that one of them suggested that perhaps we should create our own Girl Scout meetings better tailored to our own needs. We could discuss bettering the world and being outdoorsy. We could organize field trips and lessons. We could talk cookie sales and how to honor the Girl Scout promise. But we’d do it without our daughters present. At night. Over a glass of wine. Or several. Or, heck, a bottle. Basically, it would be a Moms Night Out, except we’d do it under the guise of Girl Scout planning.
I have SO found my people.
At least no one suggested that we bring wine to the actual Girl Scout events.
So, in a couple of weeks, if you need me on a random Wednesday night, I may not be available because I’ll be at a Girl Scout planning meeting. Snacks will be provided. We will be friendly and helpful and use our resources very wisely. And we will, without a doubt, make it our mission to make the world a much better place.