Monday, September 8, 2014

Junior Girl Scouts: aMUSE Journey--Should Leaders Bother? YES!

My most recent post detailed our troop's first meeting of the year.  The girls decided to work on their first Journey ever.  Though we have only had that one meeting, we are off to a fantastic start with the aMUSE Journey for Junior Girl Scouts

Before deciding on the aMUSE Journey, I did some research.  To be honest, I was apprehensive to try a Journey with our troop.  Based on the mixed reviews I have read about the Journeys, I was concerned that aMUSE would be a failure.  Our girls love to earn badges and participate in service projects, and I want them to continue to be excited about being a Girl Scout.  That being said, this is their troop, and Girl Scouts provides a safe place for the girls to make mistakes.  If the Journey does flop, we will learn from the experience and move forward.  With our first meeting still fresh in my mind combined with an incident that happened yesterday, I am convinced the aMUSE Journey is the right decision for the girls in our troop. 

The Junior Journey Book explains that the aMUSE Journey is "about having fun trying on roles, and being a leader who stretches herself to play new parts.  (It's) also (about) inspiring others to try new roles" (page 5).

Yesterday, my younger daughter (who will be eight years old next month) attended a classmate's birthday party.  We had been out of town for the weekend, and my daughter had been wearing a cute t-shirt dress with capri leggings and sandals.  As we prepared to leave for the party, I noticed she had changed into camo shorts, a tie-dye t-shirt, and gym shoes.  Over the summer, this was her favorite outfit because she was comfortable in these clothes.  She has expressed that it bothers her when other kids ask her if she is wearing boys' shorts.  I explained that she could either ignore the comments or politely tell the kids that we bought the shorts from the girls' department...that girls can wear camo, too.  She had worn this outfit many times, and I never complained or made her change her clothes...

...until yesterday, when we had the following conversation:
Mom:  We're about to leave.  Why did you decide to change your clothes?
Daughter:  I'm going to a birthday party.  This is my fun outfit!  The colors are bright, and it's comfortable.

Mom (smiling):  Well, it is fun, and it is bright.  But you are going to a birthday party.  Maybe you should wear something a little nicer?  I won't make you change your shorts, but would you please at least change your shirt?
Daughter:  If you go get it.
Mom:  Deal! 
She changed, and we headed out the door.  (Having that same conversation with my older daughter would not have been that easy!)  

My daughter was excited she was invited to this bowling party.  She knew several classmates who were invited as well.  I had arranged to stay at the party because I was not very acquainted with the family.  Another mother introduced herself to me, and we spent a great deal of time talking.  We were initially bonding over the fact that my daughter was the only girl there not wearing a dress, and her son was the only boy invited to the party.  As the evening progressed, I noticed this little boy didn't mind being the only boy.  He chose to use the "girl" bowling ball and he asked for the "girl" party favor when he was given a choice.  I overheard his mother make comments like, "You're a boy.  You should not use the "girl" ball," and "Don't take the girl party favor, you're a boy.  Take the boy party favor."  I didn't react or say anything, of course.  As a parent, I understand her point of view.  You don't want your child to give other kids a reason to tease, but I really felt for this boy.  His friends saw her react to his choices and heard her comments. 

Years ago, when I worked as a Certified Athletic Trainer in a physical therapy clinic, I treated a ten-year-old boy named Daniel.  He often told me that his friends at school were all girls.  He preferred to play with them, but many of his classmates made fun of him.  He told me I was his friend.  He began crying and confided he wanted to be a girl--everyone could call him Danielle.  My heart broke for him, and it was incredibly difficult not to cry with him.  I did give him a hug, and we finished the appointment for that day.  This conversation has stayed with me all these years, and I immediately recalled the memory as we were driving home from the party.  

PLEASE understand that I am NOT, in any way, suggesting the boy at the party wants to be a girl.  I decided to post these stories because the bowling party was a clear reminder to me that growing up and figuring out who you are and who you want to be is difficult.   Do I care that my daughter is asking for another model car for her birthday?  No.  Do I worry that other kids may make fun of this choice?  Maybe a little, but her dad and I will continue to encourage her to make choices that make her happy.  Children need to feel accepted and loved regardless of our expectations of who they should be based on stereotypes.  

Despite the negative reviews out there about the Journeys, I hope the girls in our troop have fun together as they learn to identify the stereotypes that affect them and others around them.  As Girl Scout leaders, we can embrace these young girls in our troop and build into them, celebrating the qualities that make them unique.  By choosing to guide girls through the aMUSE Journey, we can help them gain the courage and confidence to be themselves, especially if their preferences contradict society's expectations.  Thank you for reading.


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