Girl Guides of Canada Guides du Canada

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I am one of “those” moms who takes a very active interest in my kids.  Not crazy, overprotective, their poop-don’t-stink kind of involved but involved.  I keep tabs on their friends.  I monitor TV and internet use.  I take them on frequent trips to the library.  This is all in the hopes that one day the hard work will pay off, they’ll have successful careers and be happy people.  Not necessarily in that order but you know what I mean.  My career path has been a bit erratic to say the least.  I’ve gone from food services to driver training rep to medicine to college instructor and my latest stint at Girl Guides as a Unit Administrator.  My hope is that by taking an avid interest in my kids academic paths and fostering their innate talents I might offer some guidance (no pun intended) and direction for their future.  In pursuit of this, I enrolled my teaching-inclined daughter in the LIT (leader in training) program through the city.  My hope is that she gets to have further experience with kids (looks good on a resume / application), build skills (also looks good) and that she might be able to make an educated decision about her life path.  Quite a lot for a 12 year old but after her comment last week, I think we are heading the right way.

This story starts with my daughter having had a long history in Guiding.  I enrolled her in Sparks when she was 6 and she has continued through the branches just ending her third year in Guides and heading to Pathfinders in the Fall.  Through no fault of my own (I’m involved not insane), and with a little sneaky coercion from her Brownie leader, I became a Guider.  Interesting title “Guider”.  I’ve never truly understood the importance of that title until last week.  A little history might be necessary here for those of you not familiar with my Guiding history.  In brief: the Guide program (for girls 9-11) is a three year program.  I left Brownies to lead in Guides otherwise my daughter would not have had a local unit to go to.  Me being me said, “OK boss – what needs to be done?”  I mean how hard could it be right ?  Turns out it was hard.  Freaking hard.  Lots of work hard.  Moments of what was I thinking hard.  Last week brought home what the title “Guider” really means and made all that hard work worthwhile.

The goal of the Guide program is to prepare girls to become leaders.  Not necessarily within the Girl Guide movement but within their own lives.  Our goal is to build confidence, give them new abilities and provide them with skills that will last the rest of their lives.  While putting up a tent doesn’t seem to be a big deal to most, you need to realize that it isn’t about the tent.  It’s about that girl working with her patrol to select a site, put up their shelter for the weekend, maintain that tent for the weekend, take it down and put it away.  If you are a camping kind of family, then your kids benefit from that.  I took 14 young ladies camping three years ago and at least 9 had never been camping and those same 9 had never set up a tent.  When I asked them about the new skill they had learned and were proud of at the end of camp ? All of them said it was being able to put up that tent.  For the rest of their lives, they would remember that they could put up that tent.  It blew my mind what impact this simple task might have.

Now my daughter benefits from having a camping kind of family.  Not hard core.  Not every weekend.  Not put your food up a tree, run away from bears, poop in a hole kind of camping.  But decent enough, go hunker down in the woods, cook over a campfire kind of camping.  My daughter can now go camping with us, prep her site, set up her own tent and sleep on her own.  She knows how to set up a campfire, light it and maintain it.  I’m a bit of a fire-hog so she doesn’t get to do that all that often but she could.  She could keep herself fed and comfy for a weekend if she needed to as well.  I’m also a bit of a cook-hog but she’s helped.  Some of those skills she learned from her family but as her Guide leader for the past three years, I know that some of that confidence came from being a Guide.  I know that doing her third year campout on her own site, learning to light and cook on a stove, learning to make working camp gadgets and helping with site chores is a large part of her skill-set.  But I totally underestimated the impact of being in Guides on the rest of her life.

Last week was my daughter’s first week of LIT training.  She is fortunate enough to be able to do this with her BFFL Courtney who also happens to be one of my “graduate” Guides and whom I adore madly.  I’ve watched as both these girls matured in to leaders and more confident young women over the past three years.  Young women who know they are capable, know they can take on a challenge and succeed and know that they can be helpful and resourceful.  At the end of their first day of training, I came home from work and asked how the day went.  I only had Vanessa to touch base with but here was her response: “Mom, we already know how to do the stuff they are talking about.  We did it in Guides.  Courtney even leaned over to me and said ‘Repeat'”.  I asked her what that meant and her response was, ” Geez Mom, just what I said ! We have already had to lead games and teach the younger girls.  You had us doing all that stuff already.”  Gotta tell ya, I had a moment.  That moment that vacilates between wanting to give her scolding for being a smart-mouth and the other part of me that wanted to jump up and down and shout “Yeah ! I did a good job !”  For anyone who knows me, you know what I did.  The jumping commenced.  Vanessa looked at me and rolled her eyes.  I could see the “My mom is crazy” floating around her head like a cartoon bubble but I didn’t care.  The reason I am a Guider was summed up in that little exchange.

My hope is that my daughter is not the only one who has benefited from me being a leader.  I am thinking that Courtney might be proof of that.  When I listened to Vanessa go on about the LIT program and the skills they were bringing to the party by having been in Guides it got me to thinking.  Just about every girl who joins our unit and goes through the program has the potential to have the experience that Vanessa is now having.  Those moments of confidence.  Those moments of, “Pshaw – been there, done that and bring it on.”  And I get to be a part of that.  I get to own a little piece of the success that any girl has by having been in the unit.  What a gift don’t you think ?  What an opportunity to be in the position of helping girls to be leaders, not only for others but themselves.  When girls don’t have some kind of direction in their life, their compass can go a bit wonky.  It can lead them in the opposite direction of success.  By giving them the chance to test themselves and show what they are made of, we give them the chance to build success upon success.  We help them develop the confidence to have more of those “pshaw” moments rather than the “I can’t” ones.

My daughter is lucky in that she has natural ability to be a leader.  She has a take charge personality that can motivate some and steamroll others.  She comes by these things honestly and we are both working on balancing those qualities.  I’m hopeful that Pathfinders will help with that as well.  Vanessa is usually the first one to volunteer to help.  The first one to reach out to anyone in trouble.  The first one to brainstorm ideas and get things moving.  These abilities will serve her well through out her life making her a valuable member of society and a strong role model for any kids who are fortunate enough to have her as a teacher.  I have no doubt that if she puts her mind to it, she will make a fantastic teacher.  Maybe one day she’ll even take the leadership role to the next level and become a Guider.  After watching her mom go around the bend a time or two (picture full weekend tent camping with 20 girls under the age of 11) and come out better for it, I hope so.  Whatever she chooses to do, I know she’ll be in the lead and I’ll be more than happy to follow.

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