29th Nov 2017
If we want to raise confident, outgoing girls, we can’t leave it up to the narrow education and competitiveness training they get in school. Jessie Collins is hoping Girl Guides can help.
I am not a joiner. Never have been. I reluctantly signed up for our hockey team in school but I wasn’t really sporty, and freezing my knees off in a miniskirt the size of a handkerchief (seen now through a post-Weinstein prism, the comments those skirts used to elicit of a Saturday morning were nothing short of creepy), just wasn’t my thing. I briefly flirted with the film club in college, too but never got my teeth into it; clubs just never seemed a fit for me.
What I did have though was a ready-made fraternity of women, through my mum and her many sisters and friends, and my own sisters and their friends, so I certainly didn’t want for company or distraction. But things have changed, my mother’s generation are probably the last of the big families, and where before there were ready-made communities within our reach, we are now increasingly removed from that set up. Having a handful of aunts, a few grannies and steady stream of older kids around is mostly a thing of the past.
Lots of people have moved away, friends I grew up with, sisters of my own, aunts and uncles. And what I’ve found since making the transition with my daughter from pre-school to school is that there is a big something missing and it’s about sorority. Schools teach our kids to read and write, they get on with the curriculum and that’s essentially where their responsibility begins and ends.
There is so much that school, and I have increasingly realised, I, can’t deliver either. It is something that was possibly there long ago, that came through natural play and being out on the street together but that just isn’t a reality anymore. There’s something missing around personal development for young girls that is not happening from any quarter. So I’m going to give a very old-school avenue a try, in light of the fact that self esteem is everything, and the most fragile of qualities.
I am pretty sure that the same reason mothers are such perfectionists goes some way to explaining why girls are too – we are just hard-wired to strive to do better, and be our own toughest critics. We need to protect our daughters from others, but also from themselves. That fiercely competitive streak that drives girls to outperform year on year academically can be positive but left to turn on itself, can develop into bigger issues, and a bad relationship with yourself is one of them.
I want my daughter to have a place to connect with other girls that isn’t about the classroom but about something else, a bond, an experience, somewhere she achieves something more then getting her r’s and t’s in the right place. One of the big failures of the school system is that it pits kids against each other- who gets better marks, who goes in the special place on the board for the week. So I am turning to an old institution, somewhere I never thought I’d send my daughter, the Girl Guides.
I am slightly concerned that she may be joining a cult, but I am willing to overlook the ‘Promise’ that has to be recanted, the uniforms, the Freemason-esque handshake, for a higher purpose, the chance to be a Ladybird (first-stage Girl Guides for the uninitiated) but not just any Ladybird, a ‘superhero Ladybird’, gaining powers as she collects Discover, Grow and Fly Journey badges which are used to develop their rainbow coloured superhero capes.
Yes, she may drop out after six months or even six weeks, but it is worth a try. I want her to have a way to communicate and grow with other girls that isn’t about school and doesn’t end up being about social media. An opportunity to connect with a global fraternity that could see her travel to the other side of the world in her teens, or at least understand the resonance of being part of something bigger, something tangible, not virtual. She’ll get to follow in the footsteps of Grace Kelly, Venus Williams and Michelle Obama, or at the very least, have a really cool cape to wear for dress up. What’s there to lose?
Photo Credit Allie Milot, Unsplash
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