Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Girl Scout Cookie Controversy: Follow-Up

Earlier this week, I wrote about a Girl Scout issue that was vexing my household. I am proud and happy to report two things.

1. After a long discussion, including Helen offering that maybe she could take on the task of making prizes for the other girls who sold cookies, Helen decided she would write her troop leaders a note expressing her disappointment and confusion over the decision follow the parent's wish of not getting incentives, rather than the troop vote. She further decided that she would like to find a troop that was selling cookies for the incentives, and she would sell for them. That way, she would be helping out the local Girl Scouts, even if she wasn't directly helping her troop.

2. An email arrived last night from the troop leader I had conversed with at the meeting and in that email, she reversed course, and decided to let the girls' vote stand.

I am so proud of Helen for being willing to express her feelings. She hasn't done it yet, so I'm holding off on telling her the news above. Even though it won't be her letter that turns the tide, it's a good exercise in activism, and now, more than ever, we need activist voices. Speak truth to power - that's what a debate coach / friend of mine who died a few days ago always said. Encouraging Helen is my small act of following his advice. There's a huge hole in this world left by his death - and a whole lot of people are going to have to step up to fill that void. Thank you, Tuna, even in death your words move me forward. In your honor, I'm trying desperately to raise citizens of the world.

I am also so proud that our troop leadership has reversed course on this decision. It was absolutely the right thing to do. I will break the news to Helen with great joy.

Now...go sell those cookies, girls. And bring home that trinket!


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A lesson in picking battles, brought to my house unintentionally by the Girl Scouts

Last night at Brownies, Helen's troop learned about cookie sales. They tasted cookies (Helen is willing to eat exactly ONE kind - which is one kind more than anyone else in the household - and I say this only because for years Ed or I would purchase cookies from folks we knew and at the end of the year, I was always throwing the entire box, unopened, in the trash!). They learned about face-to-face selling, phone call selling (we're looking at you, Grandma), collecting money, and making change.

There are two sales options that girls can participate in. The first option allows the troop to keep 68 cents for every box sold (cost per box is $4). If the troop chooses this option, the girls can work towards various prizes, most of which can safely be classified as junk. If you sell 175 boxes, you can get a t-shirt - woot! The second option allows the troop to keep 73 cents for every box sold, but the girls cannot get any of the incentives.

One of the troop leaders explained the two options, in what I thought was a slanted way in favor of the higher payout, and the troop voted.

The vote was 9 - 4 in favor of incentives.

So the troop leader and the volunteer leading the meeting re-explained the two choices, discussing how it wasn't easy to get the prizes, and another vote was taken. This time, the vote was 7 - 6 in favor of incentives.

And then the troop leader said she would leave out the sheet with prizes and the girls could look at them and see just how  many boxes they had to sell to get a prize - and then they could vote again at the end of the meeting.

As an adult in the room, I was actually feeling a lot of pressure to convince Helen to vote for the money, since this was clearly the option the troop leaders wanted. I resisted, because this is a great opportunity for Helen to assert herself, and she doesn't need a mother second guessing her choice.

I ended up hanging out near one of the troop leaders later in the evening, and we discussed the issue briefly. I told her that people make crappy decisions and sometimes we have to live in those decisions in order to make better decisions next time. I told her the troop had voted twice. The troop leaders should honor that vote. Then the troop leader told me the older troop she helps out in had never had the option to get the prizes, but that she was convinced at the cookie meeting she attended that the girls should get to vote and make the decision - it was their cookie sale.

The meeting ended and the mom who had explained cookie sales to the adults (the cookie captain - best title ever!) while I was with the girls came in and told me I needed to sign another form - the form saying I agreed to not participate in the incentives. So I told her - the girls voted to get the incentives - twice, in fact. She looked at me agog and said the parents had unanimously voted not to get the incentives. (Surprise!)

The troop leader confirmed that yes, the girls wanted the incentives, and then the four adults involved in cookie sales had a quick, confidential pow-wow and our cookie captain presented the form to me again stating that the parents had voted the other way and we were skipping incentives.

Helen was visibly annoyed, and I wasn't willing to take the heat for this one. So I told her she was being asked to sign the form as well. I explained the form indicated she agreed to not get prizes. She reminded me they had voted for prizes. I told her, loudly - because I am ungraceful like that - well, the parents voted as well and I guess only their vote counts.

The cookie captain was now getting a little nervous and said "maybe we can get everyone a prize for participating". Um...that's going to cost way more than the nickle per box you're foregoing, lady. Because you're going to feel compelled to get something better than what the kids would've gotten. And, what are you trying to teach here? I'm confused.

I don't want the prizes. A large part of my mothering these days consists of throwing out crap like what Helen would win for cookie sales. But this whole event still burns me because in my view, Girl Scouts is supposed to be a safe space for girls, where we foster independence and hope they feel empowered.

But in our troop's case, we won't even let them make this simple decision.

I'm a bit aghast that the girls were presented with a decision - voted twice, and were overruled by parents who were not even in the room with the girls.

So this morning, I decided I would talk to Helen and let her know the following.

1. What the troop leaders, cookie captain, and anyone else involved in the over-ruling did was wrong.

2. She has a variety of responses open to her, and we can talk through these and any options she comes up with.

  • Refuse to sell cookies. She's being asked to sell under conditions that are different than what she agreed to.
  • Write a letter to the troop leaders and let them know how she feels about the over-ruling and ask them to honor the vote - or ask them to be more honest in the future about whether they want the girls' opinions or not.
  • Decide she doesn't care that much and let it go.
  • Use this as a lesson for future meetings where she can ask the question - before a vote is taken - is this vote final? Does my vote count? Are you planning on doing whatever the parents want anyway?
  • Find a troop that is getting incentives and help them sell cookies instead.
I think she'll probably just let it go. But I'm happy to have this as a teaching moment, and also deeply disappointed that such a moment about authority is being presented to us in a place I would've thought of as a much safer space.


Wednesday, December 2, 2015


Winter has just begun and already Connor's baseball team is being put together. Though (almost) all of the former team members are in the same grade (there is a rock star younger sibling who plays on the team), the age ranges make it such that the boys could qualify for a couple of different leagues. In one league, the boys would stay together, in the higher league, the boys would be split up. Our coach, who has committed so much time to all of these boys over the past several years, has decided to stay in the lower league, where the boys can stay together. I don't know what the other boys will be doing, but I am so grateful that Connor has the opportunity to have one more spring with his coach.

I feel confident in saying that Connor will not become a professional baseball player. I'm fairly confident, in fact, that he won't play into high school. I'm less certain about what will happen in middle school. (But given what a confusing time this is for kids, I'm sticking with a general policy of not trying to guess about this piece of the future too much.) Which just means that this might well be his last season of baseball.

Every time one of my kids gets close to a "last" of anything, I get a little sad. I think I'm sadder about this one than most because Connor really does love playing ball, and a part of him still really wants to be a professional baseball player. Which just means that if this ends up being his last season, it might also be the season his dream dies. I have, of course, told him there are other baseball related careers that might be good paths - including becoming a sabermatrician or agent. I have yet to convince him these careers would be very cool, but maybe thinking about them this year will give him a soft landing.