I wasn’t a Girl Scout growing up. I asked to be, was told no, end of story. Fast forward a “few” years and I now have three girls that are in three different Girl Scout troops. When my oldest daughter was in Kindergarten, I had no idea what to expect when I signed her up, but liked the seemingly low commitment and low cost and thought it would be a neat experience, at the least.
Maggie lucked out with a pair of really amazing troop leaders and the girls in her group were fantastic. They spent their first year of Daisies earning their petals by learning to be fair and kind, courageous and strong. They learned about community outreach and and how to think beyond themselves.
Their leaders helped teach them about a wealth of things that are applicable to everyday life, like how to save and spend money wisely and what to do for safety in dangerous situations. Sure they colored, crafted and painted, but it was all drawn back into the day’s lesson and the girls bonded over the shared activities.
When my second daughter was of age, she could not wait to join. Clare had witnessed Maggie’s two years of Daisies and was desperate to be a part of a troop of her own. Once again we were blessed with phenomenal troop leaders and a group of girls that are good, caring and kind. Clare’s troop is service project oriented. Visits (and raising funds for) the Atlanta Humane Society are frequent and if you see them at the local park with their uniforms on, they aren’t there to play, but to pick up litter and make the world a cleaner place.
Clare’s love of her troop and the skills that she has gained have poured over into every aspect of her life. Born a bit rough around the edges, Clare has learned to tone down some of her wild behavior or inappropriate comments (“BUTT!” “FART!” “POOPHEAD!”) because Girl Scouts helps teach ladies to ACT LIKE LADIES. Imagine that.
When the last girl of my bunch was ready to jump into the adventure of scouts, there were no parents available to lead the troop. Having no idea what I was doing, I volunteered because I didn’t want Cate to miss out on the amazing experience that my two older girls were having. With the help of a generous and brilliant co-leader, and the fantastic ladies in our local service unit, I have grown comfortable in my role as troop leader and enjoy devoting part of my life to helping girls learn, live and grow up in an environment that is safe, supportive, and kind.
So much so that when Maggie’s troop leaders retired after four incredible years, I stepped up to the plate to co-lead her troop as well.
What I have found is that because Girl Scouts is a mix of programs, events, ideas and badges that you can choose from, no troop is bound to a certain schedule and that relieves leaders of unnecessary stress to keep up with a fast paced program where girls are just rushing through activities to get them done. It’s a place where quality is valued over quantity and relationships fostered are more important than the plethora of badges sewn to the vest or how scouting will appear on a future college application one day.
Sure those things are nice, but if we’re going to talk frankly, kids need a place where they can be free to be themselves, to build friendships without being judged or ridiculed, not just another achievement award.
From the outside people not associated with Girl Scouts see the cookies and vests, the girls smiling in pictures over S’mores or wearing the aprons they made when learning to sew and cook. What they don’t see, however, are the intimate inner workings at the heart of the troop, the special, but private details that bond the girls confidently together in a world of uncertainty.
When my eldest daughter was relentlessly bullied by a girl at school last year, there weren’t many places where she felt safe. Her classroom, playground, the lunchroom – they were all sources of anxiety. Girl Scouts, however, was a place where she could come and just be. Who was it that called after school on particularly bad days to check in on her? Her fellow girl scouts.
Clare’s Brownie troop works together like a well oiled machine. They may only be second graders, but they are already learning how to schedule after school dates with each other to work on projects for their troop. The amount of leadership being fostered at such a young age is impressive, and will take them far in life.
My first grade troop’s eyes light up when we talk about how we can help people who are suffering. They make cards and donate gifts to the elderly that have no family to visit. They collect and donate items to those displaced by natural disasters. They are learning that service is not limited to those that we don’t know, but should be carried out in school and at home. Talk to the person who looks sad at lunch. Ask your mom if you can do an extra chore at home to help out. Be a light in someone’s day.
THOSE are the kinds of relationships I want my girls to have. I want them to learn from a young age how to play and share and communicate well. I want them to work with others to find ways to reach out to the community around them, because there is more to life than what they want.
Girl Scouts (if it’s a good troop) provides girls with a wide variety of life skills. The options cover pages and pages of the workbooks – camping, fishing, building, music, manners, athletics, service – you name it. My co-leaders and I find that the problem is never that there isn’t enough to learn/do, but there is so much that it is hard to choose from them all. The great thing is that because each troop is different, they can tailor their Journeys specifically to the wants and needs of their group.
Don’t have access to a good troop? Start one! Complaining, judging and pointing fingers has never helped make a program better. Throwing uneducated opinions around social media doesn’t help improve the lives of our girls. If you want a good place and opportunity for your daughter, then take Gandhi’s words to heart and “Be the change you wish to see in the world”.
My daughters are strong, confident young girls who are paving unique paths for themselves as they navigate through their childhoods. As adolescence looms on the horizon and drama is brewing within the groups of their peers, I am relieved that they are each a part of a group of supportive and inspiring girls that will walk this journey side by side, through the good times and the bad, and be a place of security and comfort when their worlds turn cruel. A place of love and compassion in a world that is seemingly running low on both.
Girl Scout Promise
On my honor, I will try:
To serve God and my country,
To help people at all times,
And to live by the Girl Scout Law.
Girl Scout Law
I will do my best to be
honest and fair,
friendly and helpful,
considerate and caring,
courageous and strong, and
responsible for what I say and do,
respect myself and others,
use resources wisely,
make the world a better place, and
be a sister to every Girl Scout.