Every year during the time my daughters sell Girl Scout cookies, often my conservative friends, fellow fathers’ rights advocates (I’m really a joint-custody guy, by the way) and once, just some random guy in a store, I am asked how I could support Girl Scouts. My social media feeds and the click-bait articles that permeate my news streams also choose this time of year to denigrate the organization for alleged ties to Planned Parenthood and militant feminists. I have even been asked how I justify being affiliated with the Girl Scouts while claiming to be a Christian. I would like to share my experience to explain why I am proud to be a Girl Scout dad.
From October 2009 to August 2011 I was separated from my daughters by a very unpleasant divorce. In addition to the traditional husband and wife dynamic of our divorce, I had chosen to resist the current system regarding not being a stereotype placed on parents and refused to have my time with my daughters reduced. I found myself at odds with several angry family counselors who decided to cast me in their preconceived punitive mold about how bad parents are and even went as far as trying to fabricate a confession from my daughter of a horrible nature that would have ended. my rights forever. I had a misandrist for a judge who went so far as to end the custody hearing and force mediation when, due to expert testimony, the narrative shifted out of his narrow-world mindset.
As a compromise in my custody hearing to get joint custody and fair custody time, I agreed to attend a 24-week program that was supposed to teach conflict resolution skills, but instead it was 24 weeks of male shaming. By the fall of 2011, it’s an understatement to say I was sick of misandry.
Restarting a functional relationship with my oldest daughter, I told her I wanted to do an activity that would allow us to bond during my relegated weekend time. She chose the Brownies, I tried to offer her other activities and I wasn’t sure if this was an environment I wanted to expose her to. I reluctantly agreed to attend. For the first year, I was just a mom leaving her, but I liked the lessons they were teaching her and I began to see the difference between female empowerment and what I had seen. I observed the confidence that my daughter was learning and the stability that the organization and her new friends were bringing to her life. The second year, the troop had leadership changes and more volunteer role delegation. My daughter knew of my interest in the outdoors and she encouraged me to participate in her troop’s camp, so I took on my first leadership role as one of the troop campers. As I got involved with other volunteers, I found the world of Girl Scouts to be very welcoming. Contrary to my own preconceptions of what female empowerment would look like, I found the teachings to be very much in line with what I was teaching my daughters. From career encouragement with STEM experience to lessons in personal responsibility, I loved the Girl Scout experience for my daughters. When my youngest daughter reached the minimum age of 5, she was excited to receive a Girl Scout membership and apron from Daisy for her birthday.
The next fall I tried to place my youngest daughter in a troop of her own and couldn’t find a troop meeting at a time that would work with my custodial time. I presented my problem to the local Service Unit and was surprised that they encouraged me to form my own troop. So I surprised myself and did it!
Since the fall of 2014, I have been a Girl Scout Troop Leader. I have been very happy with the curriculum and the experiences that we give to the girls. Each troop is autonomous and, ultimately, the leadership reverts to the girls and the adults merely guide.
In my 5 years as a troop leader, I have never been asked to teach anything that goes against my beliefs as a Christian, and in fact, Girl Scouts offers a pin that girls can earn annually called My promise, my faith that encourages girls to explore their own faith. This pin encourages girls to individually explore the connection between Girl Scout principles and the beliefs girls are learning in their own homes. The girls bring one of the principles of Scouting to a woman of her faith who was also a Scout and see how the two teachings intertwine.
If I was convinced that there was damage to the faith of my girls, I would have thrown them away. I have found in my area that the local churches and the troops have a relationship of providing gathering spaces and meeting places, while the 2 groups are separate in their teachings, they are still allied in wanting a prosperous future for the girls.
I have men in some of my social circles asking me why I haven’t taken the leap to put my daughters in Boy Scouts now that it’s an option. My answer is simple, Girl Scouts have created great memories, experiences, and supportive friendships for both of my girls. The lessons, opportunities, and connections my daughters have made have given them experiences they otherwise would not have had. Summer camps, visits to the state capitol, STEM expos, horseback riding, and overnight trips with your friends are amazing childhood memories that I couldn’t have provided. They are happy where they are.
In addition to the positive experiences and support for my daughters, I have had positive experiences and memories together with my daughters. I mentioned earlier where I was in 2011. I was very wary of women of power. The changes I have experienced here have been amazing. The support from Girl Scout leaders and parents has been very encouraging. They have never discouraged me from trying new things with my daughters and have provided me with the resources and contacts to be a better influence in my daughters’ lives. The friendships I have made with Girl Scout leaders and volunteers have been an incredible influence on my own worldview. By leading girls, sometimes they aren’t the only ones who learn valuable lessons.
The opinions expressed in this article are simply my own personal response to various posts, articles, and even personal inquiries. My statements expressed are my own and do not reflect or purport to be the official statement of Girl Scouts of the United States, Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta, or any individual troop or service unit with which I may be affiliated. I’m just a dad and a writer, feel free to like my facebook page for other similar articles.