Parenting Failure: Girl Scout Cookie Version

Confessions of a Cookie Captain

Last year was my first experience as a mother of Girl Scouts (technically a Daisy and a Brownie). I went to a Girl Scouts camp for a week with a friend when I was 11 or 12, but never donned the sash and badges myself. My closest connection to the Girl Scouts institution has been eating their cookies. Ironically, that is exactly where I have found my most recent parenting failure.

When I refer to this experience as a ‘parenting failure,’ I don’t mean our low cookie count. I mean that I don’t think my girls learned any of the skills or values meant from this whole experience.

In our family’s pioneer year selling cookies one year ago, we never quite got out of the gate beyond a few relatives signing up for a couple boxes each. I talked to the kids about responsibility, entrepreneurship, and initiative . . . AFTER cookie season ended. I figured it was better late than never and would prepare us better for this year. Not so much.

A couple months ago, my daughter’s Daisy troop leaders desperately emailed multiple times with pleas for parents to sign up as a cookie captain, so I did. I know what it’s like to be in charge of some project, pulling too much of the weight because others don’t volunteer, so I knew it was the right thing to do.

I showed up to the training meeting and immediately felt like I was in a movie of an alternate reality, and I was on the wrong set. To be clear: this is not a referendum on the Girl Scouts, nor my kids’ current troops, who are wonderful. It is a referendum on ME.

At the meeting, the power point progressed, the handouts unfolded, and the leader fielded questions. I simply couldn’t find the room in my brain to keep this information. I tried to limit the times I looked at my phone and whispered to a friend next to me, but I kind of felt like that “bad” student in class.

As the instructor reviewed all the potential prizes, I added up the money and thought, “all for cookies?” I know it’s about more than cookies. This longstanding tradition has the potential to teach girls important business, marketing, and entrepreneurial skills. But my social conscience voice couldn’t help but ask about all the other ways this kind of fundraising could help communities besides spreading more cookies around.

All of this is just laying the foundation for what came next: I completely forgot about it. My social conscience was not the reason. Yes, there were emails and reminders, but the ones that came during the final week of school and then the holiday break went completely unregistered by my brain. At the Daisy meeting the first week back to school, they announced that our cookie orders were due in 10 days.

Oops. Guess we better get started.     

I got serious at the dinner table. “Girls, you need to come up with a plan to sell cookies. What are you going to do?” I was really trying to emphasize the “YOU” to take me out of the equation. They planned out a door-to-door selling strategy for our immediate neighborhood. We reminded them of the relatives sort of obligated to be their customers.

Our weekends are typically busy, but this one had extra packed into it that had us on-the-go and occupied from Saturday morning to Sunday evening. The girls pitched cookies to their uncles who we saw on Saturday to sell a few boxes (prompted by me of course), and I encouraged them to make a video. That was the extent of cookie-selling action for the weekend as we headed into another hectic week.

In case you aren’t in the thick of Girl Scouts this year, online ordering is now an option. This meant building web pages for each Girl Scout with unique links for their customers far and wide. Guess what this new technology means? They independently made a video, but I figured out the website (with their input) and did the marketing on my Facebook page. As our days counted down to the deadline, I couldn’t help but feeling I was doing most of the work and my daughters weren’t learning much.

Monday came and the emails started ramping up. The cookie order forms sat empty on a pile of papers, one form torn from a wet boot. The girls didn’t speak a word about it. I shirked my cookie captain duties until I was the only one of a small group of us available to enter the cookie orders before the deadline. I squeezed in my requirements at the last minute (Volunteer sign-up! Background check!) and figured out navigating digital cookie orders.

In the final hours before the deadline, the girls scoffed at the idea of going to a few houses. I didn’t argue because it involved me going with them, and it was 17 degrees the day after a snowstorm.

Parenting Failure Girl Scout Cookies

So here we are. The day after our cookie-selling deadline, and we sold just about the same as we did last year. And I use that “we” very generously as somehow I seemed to do most of the selling. As a mother who highly values self-sufficiency, personal responsibility, and accountability in my children, this outcome bothers me.

When I refer to this experience as a “parenting failure,” I don’t mean our low cookie count. I mean that I don’t think my girls learned any of the skills or values meant from this whole experience.

As I sat on my couch Saturday afternoon to enter cookie orders from all the other Daisy girls, I had data to back up my feelings of failure. Last year, I sort of convinced myself maybe we weren’t as different from other families as I assumed. This year, I couldn’t lie to myself because the numbers were in front of me. The volume of cookie boxes sold by 6-8-year-olds astounded me. I was quite grateful for one child who rounded out the low number of the counts with my daughter.

I will say I still don’t know for sure who did how much of the work to result in the impressive box counts. Until I talk to each and every parent, I can give myself the out that maybe they also did most of the work, but much better than my husband and I did. I mean really -- we are talking about 6-8-year-olds being pretty organized and motivated.

Well, there’s always next year. Who wants some Girl Scout cookies? Maybe I better start now. WAIT, I mean they better start now.