I sensed them before I saw them. A carbonated excitement that pushed aside the steady hum of the front lobby. It was a gaggle of girls, perhaps 10 or 11 years old. They had tote bags on their shoulders and duffle bags dropped to their feet. Their small group, roughly a half dozen, tittered blissfully, gazing up to the ornate ceiling, pointing to the chandeliers, looking around at the austere paintings on the wall. Nearby, two mothers are digging in their handbags and collating paper printouts, waiting to check in. A third woman stood with the girls. Her smile seemed to relish the girls’ delight while her eyes were attentive to the other lobby guests. Great instincts; she was not a rookie chaperone.
I offered to share cupcakes with the girls in the café while the mothers got checked in. More great mother-chaperone instincts: she was listening for red flags and scanning my soul as I introduced myself. I expected nothing less. I asked her to join us and we all tumbled into the café.
They were a Girl Scout troop from a suburb of Chicago. In addition to a camping trip, an excursion to a fancy hotel in another city had been their goal for this year’s cookie money and fundraising.
“This is SO cool,” said one, as we sat at a long table. They nodded to each other in agreement. They were a calico assembly of curls, ponytails, dimples, glasses, friendship bracelets and giggles.
I learned most of them were fifth graders as well as veteran Girl Scouts. I asked what they liked most about being Girl Scouts. They told me they enjoyed learning new things, going new places, and sharing a connection that was special from their “regular” classmates and friends.
“We only meet a few times a month, so it’s special when we’re all together.”
The girls admit that they’ve matured together too, learning how to plan things and even how to fight and make up. When I asked them to describe themselves, they offered “funny,” “talented,” “loving,” “electric.”
When I asked what they each wanted to be when they grew up, I was prepared for Doctor, Lawyer, Veterinarian, Police Officer, the short list of ambitions that we grown ups typically dispense to children. My heart leapt with joy to hear, instead, Trapeze Artist, Interior Designer, Teacher, Viola Player, Pilot.
Of course, I’ll have no way of knowing if the girls will land on these goals 10-20 years from now. Still, I was excited to hear that they were already dreaming outside the box. Don’t get me wrong, there are phenomenal careers inside the box, but you have to admire the vast number of pre-schoolers who, according to a recent Forbes poll, intend to become superheroes and princesses. They’ll realize how competitive those gigs are, eventually. In fact, a survey on Salary.com reports that 70% of us changed our “dream job” once we became adults. (Although 60% of us still wish for those childhood ideals.) Realized or not, the point is to dream.
My merry band of cupcakes began to fall away into spirited side conversations. All three mothers were with us now, the adult business of check-ins and room keys handled. Annie, my cupcake girls’ self-appointed spokesperson, explained that they were hoping to have two adjoining rooms separate from the mother-chaperones.
“I doubt that’s going to happen,” she said with a comical twist at the mouth.
“Probably not,” I agreed, giving her a wink. “But it never hurts to dream.”