One of the latest trends in parenting and education is the emphasis on resilience and “grit.” On stick-to-it-iveness. We are supposed to show our kids how to set a goal and pursue it, despite setbacks. If they don’t learn how to weather hardship or setbacks in minor things in childhood, they’ll be undone when they fail or struggle as adults.
All things being equal, I believe that. We have to give our kids, as my brilliant friend Erica put it, the grace and opportunity to fail.
But sometimes, I just want to give them the option to not really try at all. Case in point: I sold their Girl Scout cookies for them.
I loved Girl Scouts as a kid, though I was not a good one. I was always more interested in reading through the handbook with its descriptions of endless badges than ever completing any. We complained a little that the Boy Scouts got to go on better trips and camp-outs. I have no recollection of selling cookies.
As a mother, I love the Girl Scouts, with their generally feminist background and their attempts to honor diversity and further inclusivity. I love our troops specifically: in a town with a lot of stay-at-home moms, many of the Girl Scout moms work full-time outside the home. We have only so many volunteer hours; thus expectations are reasonable and meetings are outside the work day. These are my people.
The leaders have been great in spinning the cookie sales, too. Why not set a goal of, say, five houses where you’ll just ring the bell? Even if you don’t sell any, you’ll get the practice. . . . It doesn’t matter how many you sell, we’re mostly trying to raise money for our troop.
But January got away from us. We had a lot going on this month with the trip out of state, the broken boiler, the new baby, and my attempt to single parent while my husband was out of town. We were nearly overwhelmed by simply doing our jobs: them going to school and finishing homework, me serving as a pastor and still managing breakfast, dinner, bedtime and the occasional load of laundry. This was not the time for me to encourage them to grow in their sales skills, to send them out to knock on doors.
All of a sudden the deadline for orders was upon us. We hit up family, posted a few pleas on Facebook. My kid sister sold a bunch of boxes to her co-workers. I sold four lousy boxes to one of my coworkers. I promised to mail orders of more than two to my friends out of town.
Our kids are under a lot of pressure these days. Our lives are threatened by a poisoned earth, an unsustainable economy, an uncertain future, and some of us work out our anxiety through attempts to bullet-proof our kids, to prepare them, to equip them always and at every opportunity for every contingency.
It feels like there is a lot at stake.
Our kids shouldn’t have to feel all that pressure. We’re supposed to be the non-anxious presence, the ones who reassure them that all is well. We’re called, as parents, to help them know that God is with them and that makes everything else possible.
When my daughters realized that their cookie orders were due and they’d personally sold no boxes, they began to freak out just ever so slightly. It felt like a real gift to them to be able to say, Don’t worry. Some of my friends want some, and your grandparents. You don’t need to do a thing.
I will help you. Don’t worry.