Samoas, Do-Si-Dos and iconic Thin Mints piled up neatly in stacks on the dining room table. Empty boxes of cookies were tossed in the corner.
My 7-year-old daughter is a Brownie, and it was her first time selling Girl Scout Cookies.
She was looking forward to this for the entire year.
I was, too. There are important things to be learned: how to handle rejection; how to overcome "no"; making change and setting goals. These are things I want my daughter to experience.
The Girl Scouts reinforce the importance of these skills by allowing the girls to earn badges like "Money Manager," "Cookie CEO" and "On My Own." Many of the badges have this phrase emblazoned on them:
It's Your Business -- Run It!
Her little mind was racing as she thought up ways she could sell her cookies. There's a reason she's called Little CEO.
She talked about setting up a little table, lemonade stand style, on our corner to sell them. She wanted to decorate a big sign and wear her vest and sell cookies on the corner.
But then we got the Rules About Cookie Selling.
- You must only go door-to-door to people you know.
- Booth sales are organized efforts on specific days.
- You cannot sell until a specified time and hour on a specified day.
- You can market cookies in social media channels (with the help of an adult) but you must accept cash or checks in payment.
- Your mom or dad can take cookies into work to sell. (hm)
- And you cannot, under any circumstances, set up a table on the corner of your street and sell.
My daughter was crushed. But we pressed on that first Sunday morning, trudging door-to-door, me schlepping around a giant duffle bag stuffed with boxes of cookies and Little CEO polishing her sales pitch.
On Monday, we got an email about all of the Cookie Crimes that were being committed in our local area.
People had set up booths at nearby gyms and at a local marathon event. Girls were being ratted out for standing on their own street corners trying to sell cookies. The response:
There should be no cookies sitting still anywhere. No tables. No chairs. No anything that even remotely looks like a booth. You must keep moving unless you are ringing a doorbell or actively make a sale.
The next girl/troop we catch breaking the rule will face consequences. There is no excuse for these rules infractions. Rules are in place to protect the girls and the integrity of the Girl Scout brand.
It felt like wartime Europe.
On Tuesday, as we went door-to-door again, a neighbor drove by. She pulled her car over and said, "I'm stalking you for cookies! I need to buy 5!"
As Little CEO transacted the sale, I kept looking around, wondering if anyone was watching us. Was it OK for us to sell to someone in a vehicle? Were we wrong to stop between houses and sell cookies? We're supposed to KEEP MOVING! Was my daughter going to get expelled from Girl Scouts for a rules infraction? And how ridiculous is it that I have to worry about this?
If this is her business, why isn't she being allowed to RUN IT?
I didn't make too much hay about it. She was enjoying selling cookies, and that's all that mattered to me.
Until last night, when I came across an article in my Facebook stream. It's about an 11-year-old Girl Scout named Emma Vermaak who participated in a Twitter party to raise additional money to buy cookies for our armed forces. The Girl Scouts social media team seemingly supported this effort, then backtracked and warned Vermaak that she was not to take PayPal donations for her fundraising efforts (which is how people in a Twitter party would donate money quickly and easily).
Because she wouldn't be learning "oh-so-important people skills," the tweet read.
I'd venture a guess that this girl has all the people skills she needs -- along with a healthy helping of creativity, social media savvy, entrepreneurial spirit and a passion to do good for others.
She built a business -- her own little mini non-profit -- and she's not being allowed to run it.
She could make hundreds of soldiers happy. She could inspire other young girls. She can teach organizations a thing or two about using social media for cause-building and fundraising.
But I guess the Girl Scouts would rather that her parents take the cookies into work and collect money there, while she's at school. That'll teach her some life skills!
The Girl Scout Mission is: Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.
What I think the Girl Scouts are losing with the overarching bureaucracy around cookie selling is this: Every girl's path to finding her own courage, confidence and character will be different. Each of those paths should be embraced, encouraged and nurtured.
Little CEO has 14 boxes of cookies left to sell. And if she wants to sell them off a card table on our corner this weekend, so be it. It's her business, and I'm going to let her run it.
This post originally appeared on KludgyMom.