‘m probably going to be branded a Fascist for admitting this, but in my day I never really enjoyed Cub/Boy Scouts. Don’t get me wrong, I see a lot of social value in the lessons they teach… honesty, bravery, disaster preparedness, walking old ladies across the street; and I certainly loved the time spent with my dad while I was doing it. There was always something that just didn’t sit quite right with me about the whole experience. There were quasi-military uniforms, secret handshakes, swearing oaths (to uphold values you weren’t possibly old enough to understand)… I remember looking around at all the other guys, fingers firmly-
raised solemnly swearing to do their duty, and it all felt a little too cult-ish for my comfort. It seemed very suspicious to me. So when I finished Cub Scouts I decided that I would not be moving on to Boy Scouts. Now I certainly appreciate what an achievement reaching Eagle Scout is. I won’t detract from anyone who’s earned those stripes (wings?), and goodness knows I loved getting out the tools and designing my pinewood derby car with my dad. But on the whole, Cub/Boy Scouts and I just weren’t a good match for one another.
I would like to take this opportunity though to thank Mrs. Moncrief (our den leader) for custom-making me a badge when I earned “Bobcat” before I was actually old enough to get it. I was just a little squirt then, and when she presented the home-made badge to me at the awards ceremony I didn’t accept it as graciously as I should have. There. Good to get that off my chest. It’s bothered me my whole life.
In any case, my daughter has recently started Daisies, the precursor to Brownies, which is the precursor to full-on Girl Scouts. It’s fun for her. It’s fun for my wife. It’s a social event as much as anything else, with some fun activities thrown in here and there. But 30+ years later, watching my daughter getting started in the scouting organization, all those things that chafed me when I was a scout have come back to haunt me through my daughter. I fully recognize that my aversions to some of the unavoidable parts of scouting-culture are my own personality quirks, and are well outside mainstream thinking. I also firmly believe that the benefits of scouting on net outweigh the things that I am averse to. On the “pick your battles” front, this one ain’t worth it. I’m the guy with the problem, so I’m the guy that just needs to deal with it.
Recently I had the opportunity to watch my daughter do her thing at a Daisies meeting. Those girls were so cute, and the moms who were running the meeting are all superhuman. “Uh oh, girls” our good friend Karen said as she opened up her front door to let me in the house. “There’s a dad here”. The chorus of 5-year-old girl giggles was sweet enough to induce diabetic shock. Watching the meeting reaffirmed in my mind all the good things scouting gives kids. Sitting there I was glad my girl was having those experiences. But the ghosts of my scouting experience were there in full force. Two words kept swirling around my mind: “indoctrination” and “cookies”.
One of the activities they did was a memory game, where a few dozen cards are spread out on the floor upside down, and each girl takes turns turning over two cards. If they get a match they get to take the pair and go again. If not the cards are turned back over and the next girl gets a shot at it. But these were not the Mattel “Memory” cards you remember from your childhood. These cards were Girl Scout *COOKIE* cards. “Bummer. Samoa and Tagalong aren’t a match. OK, who’s next?”
Now I’ve got no moral high ground to stand on when it comes to the issue of indoctrinating your kids, but I do call it what it is. From a cynical adult perspective, watching those girls try to match Thin Mint cards, it was obvious that the Girl Scout propaganda machine was in full-effect. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. But at the moment the 100 lb. gorilla in the room with the entire Girl Scout experience is the cookie-push. “Sell those cookies girls! Who can sell the most cookies?! How many cookies did you sell since the last meeting?” This is the season where corporate scouting seems to overshadow the sweet character building stuff that’s actually fun. Moms are hocking cookies to their facebook friends, dads are bringing their doe-eyed daughters to work because who can really say “no” to a 5-year-old in a Scout uniform. It’s certainly amusing to watch, if you ignore the ugly capitalism of it all. (Another Daisy Dad and I recently joked about bringing the order forms to work for those times when vendors come around to sell us something. “Oh, you’d like me to spend a bazillion dollars on your new wigit? Did I mention that my daughter is selling Girl Scout cookies? How many boxes should I put you down for?”)
In their defense, the proceeds go to paying for more character-building stuff, a group outdoor camping trip at the end of the season which should be absolutely Dork-TASTIC. But let’s get real. Sure, selling Girl Scout cookies outside the grocery store has its character building qualities too. But these are 5-year-old girls we’re talking about. They have no idea why they’re selling cookies, other than because their parents tell them to. For Pete’s sake, at this age they have absolutely no concept of the value of a dollar. My daughter still thinks a nickel is more valuable than a dime because it’s bigger. I’m not going to walk my daughter around the neighborhood or park her in front of a grocery store when to tell people “we’re raising money for a camping trip” when she has no idea what the connection is between the money raised and the trip itself. When she’s older? Sure. Now? No.
Still, there is money that needs to be raised, cookies that need to be sold. When other girls are reporting 100+ boxes sold, ain’t no way I’m gonna let my girl say “I only sold 12 boxes”. What’s a DorkDad to do?
I’ll tell you this: if the vendors don’t pay a visit to my office and come through real quick, my itemized deductions for 2012 are going to show a rather large donation to the Girl Scouts of America.
Anyone want to buy some cookies?
$4.00 a box.