G is in Brownies again this year. It's her second time -- she was in the same troop during first grade -- but we took a year off in between because I was so incredibly burnt out on the entire experience. It had nothing to do with P, who was still alive when the Brownie year ended: in fact, he asked me if I was going to sign her up again and I think I said something about wild horses and red-hot pokers. I was over it like someone who has just got over a bout of food poisoning, and is looking back on the last 24 hours and thinking, "Dear God, I hope I never get that sick again." I was done.
What was my problem? Just about everything, really. I have a pretty high tolerance for kiddie hijinks, but there was a lot of seriously out-of-control behavior that no one was managing, to the point where it was almost impossible to do an activity. Also, most of the girls were a couple of years older than G and had been in the troop for longer, and while they weren't mean or deliberately exclusive on that basis, they also had their own friendships already formed, and she wasn't part of them.
But the main issue, for me, was that it just wasn't very ... Girl Scouty. No one ever wore uniforms -- I never bought G the official vest because it seemed pointless under the circumstances -- and none of the history and ritual I remembered from my own Brownie experience *cough* years ago was there. No "investiture" ceremony to get the Brownie pin, no Girl Scout Promise, no circle of friendship, none of that. When we'd go to big councilwide events, I could see it wasn't just that all these things had been dropped over the years -- other troops were in uniform and knew the songs and seemed to be rocking the Girl Scout experience. For us, though, it was just a lot of halfhearted crafts and whining and squabbling over who got more of the pink yarn.
After all that, I was wary when G begged to sign up again this year. However, she really wanted to, and I knew one of her good friends was in the troop this time around, so I said all right. And to my relief and delight, there's been a huge change for the better while we were away. It's a bigger troop now, with a whole new mix of girls, and the leader, who was the co-leader before, has really taken control and brought a lot more order to the way things are done. Most of the girls are wearing the vest now, so I bought one for G and spent what felt like hours ironing and sewing on all the patches that have been languishing in their Ziploc bag for the last year and a half. I also bought her a copy of the Brownie handbook, and she's been reading it with great interest and doing the various fill-ins and quizzes.
She seems to be a lot more into it all than she was before, and I don't know whether that's because the troop has changed or just because she's older now, but I'm happy about it. After all, if you're going to do something for an entire year, you might as well be fully invested so you can enjoy yourself.