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One mom's love-hate relationship with Girl Scout cookie sales


My living-room floor is covered with boxes of Girl Scout cookies. The car trunk is full of them, too.

And I have blocked off numerous two-hour chunks of my daughter's and my already busy lives to take our show on the road, hawking those $5 boxes of deliciousness to people leaving places like Lowe's, Safeway and our local butcher shop.

Mom confession: I have not always been good-natured about all of this.

When the sale launched, and the booth-sales signups came out, I tried to impress upon Elizabeth that this required effort by both of us and that, with a second job, I was much busier now than at this time last year. So I was a little chagrined when she gleefully set a goal that was 100 boxes higher than last year's mark.

I came home, muttering to my husband about this. So we sat down for a Parental Pep Talk. (We do this a lot; do you?) In addition to offering to share cookie duties (hooray!) he pointed out that, at age 11, our daughter just assumes that we'll be there to support her interests and activities — and isn't that the way it should be?

I think he's right. My working parents carted me all over town for music, leadership and 4-H activities, and I took for granted that they would be at all of my performances, fundraisers and what have you. My husband said he never doubted that his mom, despite running a busy in-home daycare, would happily drive him to swim practice and that his dad, who had a demanding job and a long commute, would like nothing more than to spend his Saturdays watching youth baseball games.

That's not to say we shouldn't teach our kids empathy, and responsibility, but we can't expect those traits to appear from nowhere — and we also need to let them be kids and support them in their development.

And, more than once, families we admire have advised us: Want to keep your kid out of trouble? Keep her busy.

So I had a Thin Mint and thought about all of this and decided to power through this crazy time. It's going OK.

The booth sales are actually kind of a hoot.

I generally choose sites that are close to home. That cuts transit time and increases the chance we'll see someone we know. Sadly, we witnessed a major theft last week at Lowe's (and learned that it's depressingly common), but we also saw people shopping with their dogs (Elizabeth loves that!), heard people's stories of their own Girl Scout days and heard a lot of people say, "Sorry! I already bought way too many."

I think I am most proud of my daughter when someone declines to buy. She doesn't miss a beat and cheerfully replies, "Have a great day!" I'm pretty sure that has occasionally prompted someone to turn around and buy anyway.

I am trying to embrace the mother-daughter time. Between customers, we tidy the table, plot how to better lure people and have some great discussions inspired by things and people we've seen.

She is learning to make small talk, to make change, to take inventory and (I hope) to manage her time to fit in school, fun, responsibility and sleep. She is raising money for an organization that has been helping girls worldwide since 1912. In just 18 months of membership, my daughter has attended a rocketry workshop, a super-fun day camp, a chilly weekend campout and several community service projects, not to mention making a bunch of new friends.

I am really, really trying not to be Martyr Mom, but a tactic that is making me feel a little better is that, on most booth-sales days, I will subtly sneak in an extra chore at home, like asking Elizabeth to fold a load of laundry or unload the dishwasher — tasks she probably should be doing more often, anyway. Her Girl Scout leaders have emphasized this sort of arrangement, saying: "Your mom wants a cup of tea? Get her that tea. She paid your membership dues and drove you here."

Booth sales end on March 17. I hope we'll look back on this as a slightly-too-busy time of learning and togetherness.

And I hope we'll have some Thin Mints left over. (Samoas are the biggest seller around here, but I'm not a big coconut person.)

P.S. Are you a fan of Savannah Smiles, the lemon cookie? They tell us they're going away after this year. The told us that last year, too, but I think they really mean it this time!


Julie Hanson is the website editor for Seattle's Child. She loves her family and chocolate.

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