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Notes From a Single Mom: Cookie Jarred—Knock, Knock, Guess Who's There?

It’s that time of year again. Just as our new year’s diets start to take shape, those sweetly disguised saboteurs known as Girl Scouts start peddling their irresistible cookies again. Samoas, Do-Si-Dos (the crunchy peanut butter ones) and, be still my heart . . . Thin Mints, tasty chocolate creations I’m sure they eat up in heaven. 

While cookie lovers nationwide look forward to this deliciously sinful season, many parents sigh collectively under their breath, “Oh no, not again.” Like other fund-raisers that transform our children into peddlers for a few short weeks, the Girl Scouts’ cookie drive—their biggest money-making endeavor of the year—falls on the shoulders (and later, the hips and thighs) of parents, mostly. 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for Girl Scout cookies. In fact, if everyone ate Thin Mints all day long, the world would be a much happier place. But it’s the competitive, race atmosphere of door-to-door sales that I, particularly as a single parent, have a problem with.

Lynn Armitage

Let’s first address the door-to-door sales. Didn’t this marketing technique disappear with hardbound encyclopedias? Besides, exactly when are my daughters supposed to bounce from house to house? After school, sure. Or between gymnastics and guitar lessons. But nobody’s home in the afternoon, so doors go unanswered.

And when homeowners do return from work, it’s dinnertime for everyone—even cute, little girls in green sashes. After dinner, it’s homework, showers and too dark to be calling upon strangers, anyway.

Secondly, my local council makes it very clear that scouts CANNOT start selling cookies until the official kick-off day, which usually falls on a Saturday. The past two years, my scouts were with their father that weekend, who lives in another county and with whom cookie sales are not a high priority. It’s a girl thing, I guess. By the time my girls returned from their weekend visitation, the surrounding neighborhoods had been picked clean by rival scouts.

So, I go cyber-knocking. I send e-mails to everyone in my address book, sweet tooth or not, begging, pleading and guilting friends and colleagues into buying cookies so my daughters can win cheap, gold charms and furry, stuffed animals that I could buy for a few bucks at Rite Aid. It works, mostly. But I have lost a few friends along the way.

The real burden, however, is a financial one. According to scouting practices, the girls don’t collect the money up front. It’s due upon delivery. Seems fair in a capitalist system. But behind the scenes, when scouts turn in their cookie orders to be processed, the local council requires the entire order be paid for, on the spot . . . or no cookies! Parents have no choice but to write personal checks to cover hundreds of orders that aren’t even theirs.

Last year, my daughters sold 100 boxes each. At $4 a box, I wrote checks to the Council totaling $800! I’m a single mom . . . I don’t have $800 to spend on cookies, for goodness sakes. So in the last leg of this crazy race, my scouts and I scramble door-to-door delivering cookies and collecting money in a haphazard attempt to slowly reimburse my checking account by $4 here, $8 there.

It’s nuts! Oh, yeah . . . they sell those, too. Usually around November.

Lynn Armitage is an enrolled member of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin. She has cleared out an entire freezer to make room for her Thin Mints.