Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Make new friends, and...lock the others in the closet

Most of the time, I love being a Girl Scout troop leader. I like planning meetings and thinking about what will help the girls learn while they have fun. I like the moms who are involved as my co-leader, cookie chair, treasurer, and April Showers chair. I like that my daughter is continuing a tradition that I started, that she's proudly building her sash like I built mine. I love that she loves Girl Scouts just as much as I did. I love that her grandmother was a Girl Scout, and is now helping at all of our meetings - ensuring three generations of my family at these meetings (you gotta admit that's just damn cool).

On meeting days, like today, I love being a Girl Scout troop leader right up until 2:59 p.m. At 3 p.m. the bell rings, the girls race in, and I question why on God's green earth did I ever agree to do this.

On the one hand, these girls are fantastic. They are all little bundles of promise and potential and hope. They are eager to learn, eager to earn their badges, eager to sing new songs and play new games.

On the other hand, they are a pack of Irish banshees who scream, squeal, chant and run about uncontrollably. There are a few who don't give a shit whether we are speaking or trying to give instructions, or that their fellow scouts are trying to contribute to the discussion. There are a few who refuse to listen to directions, then melt down because they don't understand what to do and are frustrated. (This is, interestingly, highly predictable. Same girls, every time. I'm sorely tempted to introduce the pre-instruction scream phrase "Shut the fuck up already" to each activity, but I doubt I'd get parent approval.) There is one little girl who seems to think she is the troop leader and that all the other girls, and the four adults at each meeting, are there to pay attention to her, and only to her.

Here's the thing: the girls really are wonderful. They are smart and sweet and mostly respectful. They listen. They say "please" and "thank you." They follow directions. Unfortunately, the girls who behave are routinely ignored so we can focus on disciplining those who consistently act up. I try to make a conscious effort to ensure these girls receive attention and compliments. I want to promote their good behavior and thank them for setting a good example for others. But I have to make a conscious effort to do that...I have to really make sure I'm doing it in between wrangling the little shits.

The other ones, the shits, I want to lock in the supply closet until their mothers show up.

I am thankful that my own child, while not perfect, usually falls into the majority category of wonderful girls. I don't want to think that perhaps she falls into this category simply because her mother is at every troop event, but I'll admit this might contribute some days.

Today's meeting was particularly bad. I am convinced that the two second grade teachers - in an attempt to either prove why they need massive pay raises or to simply amuse themselves - placed Red Bull in the girls' juice boxes at lunch. "We are here at this Catholic school, where we've secretly replaced the fine juice they usually serve with Monster Energy Drink. Let's see if anyone can tell the difference!"

To make matters worse, I had planned an activity involving the girls making their own snack, aptly named "Energy Balls." We are earning the Snack badge, and part of that is encouraging healthy eating habits. I found a no-bake granola bar-type recipe that looked tasty. Energy Balls have oats, peanut butter, honey, and either raisins or chocolate chips. (The secret, invisible ingredient, I discovered, is some sort of amphetamine.) You mix all that together and form balls, then refrigerate for an hour and eat. Or, in our case, you mix all that together while getting half of it on the table, on the floor, and in your hair, while randomly stuffing handfuls of the mix into your mouth. Sometimes, in the middle of this, you scream "I don't like peanut butter!" or "I don't like crunchy peanut butter!" or "I don't like honey!" or "Can I just eat all the chocolate chips?" Sometimes, in the middle of this, for no reason at all, you let out an ear-piercing shriek designed to attract dogs and make your troop leader's ears bleed.

While the Energy Balls were a tremendous hit, we have decided to try Tranquilizer Balls next month. The honey shall be substituted with valium (we first proposed Benedryl, then by the end of the day decided valium was a far safer route). We shall have the Tranq Balls ready at 2:59 p.m., and at 3 p.m. we shall tackle the girls one-by-one and force feed them.

Be it known that we also squeezed into our two-hour meeting these events:
  1. A discussion on different styles of painting. (Mondrian, Van Gogh, Monet, Close, Warhol, and Dali. All my favorites.)
  2. A discussion on murals, and what to paint on ours.
  3. The painting of said mural, which was a cityscape that included two Statues of Liberty, three Gateway Arches, several suns, snow and rain, houses, and unidentifiable creatures.
  4. Snack time, where we consumed Energy Balls and fresh fruit.
  5. A vote on what to do with the extra Girl Scout cookies we were unable to sell (because they were the "bad" ones, i.e. the ones with no chocolate or peanut butter). Decision: half to a food pantry, half to the troop.
  6. A money manager activity involving school supply lists and price sheets. 
  7. A game of "Down By The Banks."
  8. Opening and closing ceremonies.
My co-troop leader and I end every meeting exhausted both mentally and physically. My head typically hurts, and I feel like sitting in the corner of a dark room and crying for a bit. Zo and I came home tonight and I laid down on the bed for 15 minutes. Even though it hurt just to lay there, I was unconscious in under two minutes. I felt like drinking heavily, and the only thing that stopped me was that I knew I had to work tonight to make up for the 2.5 hours I missed at work today. I want to find the mom volunteers who ran my troop meetings when I was a Girl Scout, and apologize profusely while saying thank you by plying them with wine and shots.

Tomorrow will be better, and I will start planning the May meeting. Tonight, though, tonight I reserve the right to think that Girl Scout leaders should get hazard pay and counseling, plus free beer at any local bar on meeting days. I hope it will get better. I hope that as these girls grow and mature, that the meetings will be respectful while remaining fun, and that I won't feel like giving up after most of them. And tonight, I tucked my little girl into bed while giving thanks to God that she's one of the "good" ones.

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