Monday, August 28, 2006

Is it Ok to Say "No"

My daughter brought home a note today. It said email....if you want to be a Girl Scout. Five years ago she brought home a similar note, which I dutifully filled out (back in the day of paper forms collected at school)even checking the box that said I would help. I didn't hear anything more from the Girl Scouts that year, but I heard from my daughter who wanted to know why there was Cub Scouts at school but not Girl Scouts. I figured leadership was the problem, so that summer I took the bull by the horns and called the council and volunteered. I got her best friend's mom to be my assistant and we led a troop of almost twenty girls. We had a ball.

The next year, right as school was starting I made a startling discovery--I was pregnant. It was the most miserable of my three pregnancies between the nausea and fatigue that didn't completely go away until almost Christmas and the swelling, itching and insomnia that commenced around March. Still, we had good girls and we had a good time--I even made a camping trip in late February. I hated the idea of quitting, but I knew I couldn't handle a troop and a baby. Luckily, my co-leader agreed to take over, if I'd help.

That fall, my co-leader backed out. She'd help, she'd do camping trips and some of the meetings, but she couldn't be reliable because of problems in her personal life. I had only a small group and decided that we could meet on Saturday mornings and rotate parents to give me the two adults needed. The girls were great, but all those Saturday morning meetings really cut into my free time, and I was having trouble getting parents to show up. By summer I was burned out so we did very little.

The next year our service unit was going to do a Washington DC trip. It was to be the girls' last year at that school and so I decided I'd try to keep the troop together at least a little, mostly because my daughter wanted me to. I said I'd be willing to do SU events and one or two camping trips, with a meeting before each trip, or, if the group wanted to do the WDC trip, I'd be willing to meet monthly and do fund raisers, if I could get a commitment from a mom to be a co-leader. A mom stepped up to the plate. A few hours after that meeting we evacuated for Katrina. When life had returned sufficiently to normal, I found that three of my six girls were no longer in town, nor was the new co-leader. I couldn't get in touch with two more. My daugther, however, wanted Girl Scouts. I decided that I'd try to get a troop going, and recruited at school across all grade levels and put together a troop that included one Daisy, several Brownies and several Juniors. Basically we did activities from the Brownie Try-It book using the Juniors as assistant leaders to earn their leadership badges. They had a good time, but again I had trouble getting help and attendance became a problem. I was glad when the year ended and though we did a few things this summer, I can't say that I had all that much fun.

My daughter enjoys Girl Scouts, and I think the shame of the program is that it doesn't manage to hold on to girls long enough for them to get into so many of the wonderful opportunities it can afford older girls. Yet, I'm tired of being the leader. I don't mind helping, but with a toddler and a high school freshman besides her, I don't have time to meet regularly. I'm tired of scheduling away my free time only to have no one (or practically no one) show up. Yet, she wants to be a Girl Scout. Is it ok for me to say "no" to leadership, and her to say "yes" to membership?

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