I began my journey as a Girl Scout leader when my stepdaughter was 7 (2nd grade). Her troop needed a Leader and I figured I could at least make something up and provide some fun. We have had a lot of fun, too.
Now, as she enters 7th grade in the Fall she has decided to move away from Girl Scouts and become more involved with music and sports. She has grown from that funny little girl into an independent mature young lady. She's more confident about herself and her abilities. To say I was devastated when she told me she didn't want to do Girl Scouts would be an understatement. I wrestled with what I was going to do and how to continue without "my girl" being part of something that was who we were. I struggled with what to do with all the Cookie Credit she has saved since 3rd grade for a trip to Europe (hey.. being honest... it was a thought). I cried over not having her at troop meetings and events. I thought about how hard she (and we) has worked to sell cookies and build up the troop account, so she (and the other girls) could save to do cool things. I felt like she was walking away from so much and how could she do that!? I was never upset or mad at her. I was, however, very sad. Sad to know she felt I expected her to continue something she didn't want to do. Sad to lose part of who we have been for five years. Girl Scouts has been "our thing" and now it's gone...scared that we were losing touch and that I would somehow lose my girl... that's the scariest thing... losing our relationship.
Then, I processed. I gave it a lot of thought. I stopped thinking about it and just kept going for two months. Then, I woke up. I asked myself...isn't THIS what we've spent the past 5 years building? A confident young woman who knows what she wants and isn't afraid to go after it? Isn't that what Girl Scouts is all about? It's taken me time to reach this... trust me... many many tears. I have a lot of time and energy invested... I realized I was sad about fulfilling what Girl Scouts is supposed to do?! I have an almost 13 year old who is confident in herself, courageous to try new things, and she is definitely changing the world! She has learned time management and prioritization. She volunteers her time. She is interested in her school community. She is able to determine what is most important to her and if it isn't Girl Scouts... then it isn't. It's really that simple. We have all been involved with things in our lives and then ended them for one reason or another. People change. People grow.
I have sat in groups discussing how to retain our older girls and what to do to make them stay and convince them to stay in scouts through High School. Do I wish she would have? Sure. But, do I feel she needs to in order to be a confident, courageous young woman? Absolutely not. She has the building blocks. She has the history. She has the experiences that will last forever. Right now, it might be a sensitive subject for her... she's almost afraid to admit she had a good time because then it doesn't sound like it makes sense to leave. But, we've all had those things in our lives. With time, I hope she'll look back and think "oh yeah, I can do that. We did that in Girl Scouts. I had a great time." They tell us experience is the best teacher and I have learned this lesson loud and clear the past few months. Instead of being sad about girls leaving, we need to remember what they have gained. Everyone matures and "gets there" at a different rate. Everyone has their own interests. We need to applaud their bravery for charting a new path for their lives. We need to remember even if they were in Girl Scouts for a short while, they have gained skills for a lifetime. Instead of being sad about her leaving, I'm excited for her future and in my heart I know that Girl Scouts gave her the confidence and courage to strike out on the journey of life. For that, she and I are blessed.
Then... the next decision... she's leaving Girl Scouts. What about me? I wrestled with this, too. I have committed myself to two troops. I have 16 other girls who are depending on me to be there for them. I'm not leaving. I am prioritizing. I'm turning over a few things to a very experienced and amazing Girl Scout Leader, but I'm still going to be there. The Cadettes are "my girls" and I love working with them. Teens are extraordinary (and difficult, but mostly amazing). They need someone to take them through CSA. Someone who has been there and knows how to put those expectations on them. So, while I'm staying, I'm stepping back. I have an amazing friend who knows how to help these girls bloom and lead. The Daisy's are awesome and I have them for one more year. This is the age where I feel I have the niche. I can come up with cool things for them to do and experience. So, for the two troops we're splitting duties more next year.
Just as my almost 13 year old has grown, so have I. When you reach the point where you can clearly evaluate what you want and what you are good at, you can then come up with a plan to move forward.
So... next Fall begins a new chapter in my life... Girl Scouts without "my girl", but still in it for the others and still in it, because as an adult... Girl Scouts has provided me with some amazing friends that I wouldn't trade for the world!