Sockpants and Super Heroes: GIRL
I’ve always envied parents who have children who favor their physical likeness. I’m not exaggerating when I say that my kids are all carbon copies of one another other in male and female forms, and the only physical attribute that I can claim passing along to my children is my smelly feet gene.
It’s not just the physical traits that make us different. It’s personality traits as well. My youngest child, Kelly, is like the energizer bunny. From the moment she wakes up, she is driven to be the best at everything she puts her hand to. For entertainment, she practices math concepts at home from workbooks she was given from a family friend who cleaned out her bookshelves. She also plans her science fair project two months before it’s been assigned. Oh, and my personal favorite, she insisted that I create a set of homemade cursive practice sheets so that she could learn more sophisticated lettering for the Valentine’s Day cards she prepared for the entire school. Kelly, by definition, is the classic ‘over achiever,’ while her mother is the classic, ‘what are the bare minimum requirements,’ parental role-model.
Now fast forward to the day that my daughter corners me and says, “Mom, did you know they have this thing called Girl Scouts? You get to hang out with friends, earn badges for learning fun things, and they get to sell cookies every year! I need you to find out how to sign me up!” I feel a cold sweat break out over my body and the sick weight of dread in my gut. It wasn’t that I was intentionally trying to hide the fact that Girl Scouts existed. I was merely doing my best to avoid a parental situation where I was doomed for instant failure. While I was never a scout, I am pretty sure my parent philosophy of “good enough” was probably not up to the high standards of the scout organization.
I laid in bed that night carefully crafting a plan to divert her attention away from her crazy Girl Scout cookie dreams. It wasn’t like she needed more social opportunities. Kelly already had a full social schedule of playdates and birthday parties, and when it came to domesticity, the girl demonstrated on a daily basis more capabilities than her mother. Then I had a light bulb moment. If I could show her that she already possessed all the skills of a Girl Scout, she’d realize that her time was better spent on her math workbooks and hand-lettering YouTube videos.
As I surfed away on Google sleuthing out data I could use to convince my daughter that Girl Scouts was not a fit for us, I clicked on something called the “DNA of a G.I.R.L.” I learned that G.I.R.L is an acronym for a go-getter, innovator, risk-taker, leader. All the things that I see blossoming in my daughter. As my eyes scanned the illustration that identified13 personality traits of a Girl Scout, one in particular caught my attention. She handles conflict with compassion and clear communication. My mom heart started to ache as I remembered a note that I had recently found in Kelly’s backpack. It simply said, “Alyssa, I know you better than this. Please say sorry to Caleb. Kelly.” When I first read the note, I felt a sense of relief knowing that Kelly would defend her brother who is touched by autism to her classmate. But now reading it under the light of the Girl Scout principles, I felt like crying. My daughter, in front of my eyes, was handling conflict with compassion and clear communication better than many adults I know.
As I thought about her unique gifts, I felt guilty. I spend a great deal of my personal and professional life helping children with autism be the best they can be, and yet I was failing my own neuro-typical child by trying to quash her desire to embrace her inner G.I.R.L. I decided that I owed it to my daughter to help her be her best-self and began my search for a local troop.
I’m happy to report that this spring Kelly will be rocking her favorite pair of sockpants under her new spiffy Girl Scout uniform as we represent her troop selling Girl Scout cookies all over Spokane. While it’s a whole new experience for me, she is thriving and rising to the occasion. I have no doubt that the experience will provide her with all sorts of valuable life skills and, in true Lytle fashion, a few new adventures of Sockpants and Super Heroes.
Holly Lytle is the mother of three and is the founder of The ISAAC Foundation, a local autism non-profit organization. In her free time Holly enjoys chronicling her many adventures of motherhood mishaps in this column.