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Being Inclusive of All Religions in Girl Scout Troop
May 29, 2014 6:15 AM   Subscribe

How to deal with a member of my daughter's girl scout troop whose religious beliefs make it difficult to engage in regular group activities?

My wife co-leads a large girl scout troop (approx 18 girls), ages 6-7. We live in a fairly ethnically diverse part of the country and enjoy the variety of experiences that the different girls and families bring to the troop. This year, my wife and two other organizers (most parents don't participate in organizing the activities, but often drop in and attend, which is fine with us) planned and end-of-the-school-year pool/pizza party for the troop. This type of party was enthusiastically suggested by a majority of the girl scouts in the troop as their preferred type of party. We put a deposit down at a popular outdoor swimming pool and made catering arrangements.

A week or so after sending out an announcement to all the parents about the upcoming end-of-year bash, my wife and two other leaders received an e-mail from another parent in the troop, complaining that her Muslim daughter would not be able to participate because she is not permitted to wear bathing attire in front of strangers. The mother did not suggest an alternative activity, but clearly desired that the scout leaders schedule another event in its place. As a non-refundable deposit has already been made, this would be very difficult, somewhat costly, but not impossible.

There have differences of opinion between the three organizing leaders on how to deal with this request. On one hand, the girl could still attend the party, but would not be able to swim. But speaking as a former 6-year-old, I know that would be a buzz-kill for her. On the other hand, if we reschedule the entire event to accommodate her family's religious beliefs, it seems like we'll be setting an unwanted precedent. Part of me thinks that if these parents choose to raise their children under these restrictions in American society, part of their parenting challenge involves explaining to their kids why they can't take part in some popular American activities.

We've suggested to the mother of the girl that she propose an alternative party (time is running short and it would be hard to reserve a park or any other location in such short notice), but she has not responded. At the request of a Muslim colleague of mine at work, we proposed that the girl wear full-body bathing attire, as many Muslim women do (and we checked that the pool was ok with this, which they were), but apparently this was not acceptable.

If I were dealing solely with an adult, I'd probably just say, "hey, I respect your beliefs, but it looks like you won't be able to come to the party. Too bad." But I hate to think of a little kid sitting out her troop's big bash, wondering why she's not allowed to join in.

What would you do?
posted by Creamroller to Religion & Philosophy (48 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
"hey, I respect your beliefs, but it looks like you won't be able to come to the party. Too bad."

Has anyone actually asked the kid if she'd want to come but not swim? Telling her she can't go seems weird to me. Of course she can go. She just can't swim. If the pizzas will be consumed after swimming, maybe the parents can drop her off after the swimming but in time for the pizza (and party games?).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:24 AM on May 29 [13 favorites]


Could you put up more money at the pool to ensure that it's private?
posted by bleep at 6:25 AM on May 29 [1 favorite]


I'd probably make sure there were a fair number of activities that didn't directly involve the water (not too hard to have an alternative game or craft or whatever going on, and the kids might appreciate having a fun way to take a break from the pool). And then express to the parents that if the girl doesn't want to swim, that's fine, there will be plenty else for her to do. The part where that's a mild buzzkill is, imho, not your job to sort out.
posted by Bardolph at 6:26 AM on May 29 [35 favorites]


Good for you all for looking for ways to include. The girl (and possibly the mom as well) are in a tough situation and it's nice of you to think about how you can support the inclusion and assimilation that on some level they clearly want (being part of a diverse girl scout troop) even if there are conflicting values at play.

I wonder whether it's possible to address this with timing. On the programming, could you bill it as "lunch 12pm-1:30pm, pool time 1:30pm-3pm" or something. You don't have to police it all, if kids want to jump in the pool, but maybe plan for some kind of official transition at that point.

That might provide enough cover for family to send the girl to the lunch part and for her to feel more fully included in that, and to pick her up at 1:30pm as a natural transition point.

Also recruiting the mom/parents to plan future events seems like a great idea for everybody.
posted by Salamandrous at 6:28 AM on May 29 [11 favorites]


I'm a former kid from a family with a lot of religious restrictions. I would attend stuff like this and participate as much as I could. It only hurt my feelings when there was nothing available for me to eat/drink/do. Maybe ask this girl to head up a poolside game of foursquare, or have some pennies available she can toss in the pool for other girls to retrieve, or...
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 6:30 AM on May 29 [9 favorites]


I am with bleep...is it feasible to do women-only in the pool area, and would that be acceptable?
posted by 8603 at 6:31 AM on May 29 [2 favorites]


My experience of being a kid around that age was that there were routinely kids who didn't actually swim at pool parties, for all sorts of reasons. Especially that young, there are often kids who're nervous about the water or just don't like it. I would say, have the pool be one option, also have some non-swimming games and activities available for all? If they're not comfortable with all the rest of the kids in swimsuits around, that's a different problem, but if it's just about her (and, honestly, Googling, it looks like the modest swimsuit options are expensive and there aren't a lot of them for kids yet) then if there's picnic tables or whatever nearby you could also have some sort of summer-y craft project or something.

Along the same lines as Bentobox Humperdinck, I particularly remember at one point a friend who couldn't swim for some kind of medical reason on one occasion who got put in charge of throwing those diving rings for the rest of us. Yeah, it's not the same, but kids in that position already know they're not the same, I think the important thing is just making sure they're still perceived as part of the group.
posted by Sequence at 6:33 AM on May 29 [9 favorites]


You have done everything you can do. The full body bathing suit is the solution. Women in Saudi Arabia are allowed to wear these.

If that is not acceptable to that family, that is not on you.
posted by Flood at 6:45 AM on May 29 [7 favorites]


I thought "strangers" meant "non relatives". I would ask the mom.to be sure.
posted by sio42 at 6:47 AM on May 29 [1 favorite]


You've offered many alternatives and the family has proposed nothing in return, nor will they allow their daughter to participate in an appropriate bathing suit. At this point, invite her to come to the party and not swim, if that's what she chooses, but the party is set and that's that.

There is swimwear that's appropriate for Muslim kids, this family has decided not to avail themselves of it. That is their choice.

An anecdote. When I taught debate, we were reading the papers and there was a newly converted Muslim lady who didn't want to have to have her picture on her Florida Driver's License. We discussed in class what the issues were, etc. One of my Muslim students said, "I asked my Mom about this and she thinks the lady is being obstinate. She could have a female DMV person take the picture without her veil, and if she's pulled over, she could ask for a female officer to look at her license. She's just being difficult."

So...that's something to consider.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:50 AM on May 29 [12 favorites]


Make sure there's volleyball, hopscotch, jump rope, things like that. I'm sure that there will be other girls who don't want to swim.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:54 AM on May 29 [4 favorites]


Part of me thinks that if these parents choose to raise their children under these restrictions in American society, part of their parenting challenge involves explaining to their kids why they can't take part in some popular American activities.

This statement does not at all jive with your other statement that you value the variety of experiences that the ethnic diversity of your area brings to the troop.

The Girls Scouts National Council says "Girl Scouts provide an inclusive and enriching community that is accessible to ALL girls" --- emphasis theirs, not mine. Your troop leaders have inadvertently planned an activity that excludes a member of the troop. You need to re-schedule the activity.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:56 AM on May 29 [11 favorites]


Just for the sake of argument, at least one of the sites some of those pictures are pinned off of appears to be defunct, and all of them appear to be quite a lot more expensive than getting a girl's swimsuit at Walmart. Or there could be other reasons why it doesn't work. The thing about accommodating something like this is that it also means that you're set up for the dozens of other potential things that could keep a kid out of the water. Someone ends up with stitches or a cast between now and then. Someone has a reaction to the chlorine. Someone is just cranky because they're six. Stuff happens. "Be prepared" is the motto for a reason.
posted by Sequence at 6:58 AM on May 29 [2 favorites]


My view is that the parents are doing their daughter a disservice if they are not helping her navigate this in a way that respects the majority.

Speaking as a lifelong vegetarian who went to a lot of BBQs, parties where food for me was a plain bun, etc. I would have been mortified if my parents fussed at organizers to go out of their way to make the meal vegetarian-friendly; most kids in Canada enjoy hot dogs and hamburgers. Nothing bad happened to me for eating plain buns. I enjoyed my little bit of difference, and my friends enjoyed their burgers, and all was well. It's not the most precise parallel, but.

It seems like a very odd request. If the Muslim swimwear is a no-go, this kid is effectively out of nearly all group swims. Surely they don't expect that...well, I don't know. The expectation here seems bizarre, and not your problem to try to manage.

I respectfully disagree with DarlingBri given the appropriate swimwear option.
posted by kmennie at 6:59 AM on May 29 [8 favorites]


If there is food and activities the young lady can participate in that are not swimming, I think you have done a reasonable job at accommodation.
posted by Jacen at 7:02 AM on May 29 [4 favorites]


As a GS leader, I've discovered one amazing response for all of these situations: "I'm so sorry she can't attend. We look forward to seeing her at the next meeting!"

Group funds by the troop are voted upon by the girls. Not one dissenting mom.
posted by heathrowga at 7:12 AM on May 29 [21 favorites]


Whatever you suggest, pick up the phone and call the mom, or talk in person. It sounds from your question that these communications have all been done by email, which is tough to monitor for tone and intention.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 7:12 AM on May 29 [11 favorites]


As a GS leader, I've discovered one amazing response for all of these situations: "I'm so sorry she can't attend. We look forward to seeing her at the next meeting!"

This is pretty much strictly against every Girl Scout code of behavior I know of.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:15 AM on May 29 [6 favorites]


"
As a GS leader, I've discovered one amazing response for all of these situations: "I'm so sorry she can't attend. We look forward to seeing her at the next meeting!"

This is pretty much strictly against every Girl Scout code of behavior I know of."

Nope. If I try to make the schedule based upon each family's whims, I'm doomed. Some girl is always going to have soccer, some girl is going to her brother's whatchamacallit. I offer up 1-2 events each month + meetings. I invite the girls to ALL events, and the FAMILY makes the choice whether or not to attend. I can't bend to everything. Otherwise, we'd just be playing tiddlywinks at the meetings and my troop would be donzo.

I am inclusive, and I let the parents know ahead of time what is available. They make choices for their daughters. I have a troop of 15 girls (for 5 years now), and I have to do what is right for the majority. I have taken bipolar girls hiking overnight and 10 girls to the mountains. You offer opportunities, parents choose.
posted by heathrowga at 7:18 AM on May 29 [28 favorites]


Nope. If I try to make the schedule based upon each family's whims,

Someone's religion is not a whim.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:20 AM on May 29 [5 favorites]


(NOT that religion is a whim. Just to be clear. :) )
posted by heathrowga at 7:20 AM on May 29


The Girls Scouts National Council says "Girl Scouts provide an inclusive and enriching community that is accessible to ALL girls" --- emphasis theirs, not mine. Your troop leaders have inadvertently planned an activity that excludes a member of the troop. You need to re-schedule the activity.

Wrong. The troop leaders have not excluded anyone. All of the girls may come to the party. It's not like the pool's got a big sign up that says NO HIJABS ALLOWED or something, everyone is welcome. It's this one girl's parents who have decided that she cannot attend the whole party because the girl can't participate in one of the party activities.

Have multiple activities planned. And criminy, for kids 6-7 (this is the age of the girls in my troop) you're going to have a constant flow of I'm tired I'm hungry I don't want to swim anymore Kaylie was mean to me in the water and splashed water in my face and now I have water in my face I'm bored when can I go home no I don't want to stop swimming when can we stop swimming I am seven and occasionally completely insufferable whine whine whine, so you had better for your own sanity have non-swimming activities planned.

Have the girl suggest her favorite outdoor sport of her own so you can bring the stuff for them to all play that when they don't want to swim anymore.

This is ok. You can't let one parent dictate the entire troop. If I did that I would have 15 different one-on-one troop meetings a week.
posted by phunniemee at 7:21 AM on May 29 [41 favorites]


Forget the religious aspect here - this is about conflict resolution.

First:

Invite the mother of the girl to meet you. In person, face-to-face. This encourages dialogue and discourages avoidance tactics. All parties need to feel a vested interest.

Second:

Consult a respected religious authority from the local area and get his input on acceptable solutions prior to the meeting. Present these pre-cleared alternatives in your meeting with the girl's mother.
posted by Kruger5 at 7:28 AM on May 29 [7 favorites]


Just make sure the next activity is something she can attend. Ask the mom for suggestions for a future activity (not instead of this one). It doesn't matter if "religion" is a whim or not, not everyone can do everything. One person can't dictate, especially on an event that's already been decided.
posted by spaltavian at 7:35 AM on May 29 [1 favorite]


Seriously, this mother is being quite obstinate. There is plenty of recourse other than to cancel the entire event because her daughter can't wear a bathing suit. It's not like they're forcing her to say the Lord's prayer. Get the girl a bathing cap, sweat pants and a long sleeved shirt to swim in, I've swam in full clothing and it's pretty fun. She doesn't have to swim in the deep end if they are worried about the dangers of drowning due to wet heavy clothing, she can hang out in the shallow end with all the other kids who don't want to swim in the deep end.
Then again, it's probably the father who is demanding this rather than the mother, not that it matters. I feel sorry for this girl and I hope her parents get a clue and come up with some helpful solutions. Their daughter deserves some thought and they don't seem interested in helping her with her with this. But if the girl doesn't want to swim, she shouldn't swim and not expect everyone to accommodate her. Talk about entitlement issues for whomever in this family who is requesting this no-win answer. It sounds to me like the mother's (and/or father's) concern is getting their own way at the cost of everyone else.

I would do as you suggest and tell her that you look forward to her daughter attending future events that the GS are planning.
posted by waving at 7:35 AM on May 29 [4 favorites]


The Girls Scouts National Council says "Girl Scouts provide an inclusive and enriching community that is accessible to ALL girls" --- emphasis theirs, not mine. Your troop leaders have inadvertently planned an activity that excludes a member of the troop. You need to re-schedule the activity.

If they reschedule every activity that one member can't do due to a restrictive religion (or diet, or political belief) then the entire troop is being limited to only the activities that are acceptable to a religion/diet/belief they don't share. Inclusiveness doesn't require that your troop never have a pool party while this girl is a member.

I think the vegetarian example provided above is useful. If you schedule a barbecue, make sure there are veggies and fake meat to grill. It's not reasonable to expect that the troop cancel the barbecue, and it's not reasonable to expect that the troop cancel the pool party. Offer alternative activities, be respectful, and you're good.
posted by Mavri at 7:41 AM on May 29 [10 favorites]


The Girls Scouts National Council says "Girl Scouts provide an inclusive and enriching community that is accessible to ALL girls" --- emphasis theirs, not mine. Your troop leaders have inadvertently planned an activity that excludes a member of the troop. You need to re-schedule the activity.

Ah, so when I couldn't go on my troop's camping trip a billion years ago because we didn't have money to buy the gear on the list, we could have had the trip canceled for everyone?

Of course not. The spirit of the law there states that the community be accessible to all girls. The community is greater than the various events/crafts/cookie sales that comprise a year in the life of a troop.

The girl can still attend the pool party in her street clothes (as I did when I was afraid of the water as a child) and if that's verboten by her family, it's her family's problem, not yours.
posted by kimberussell at 7:43 AM on May 29 [3 favorites]


I think the religion thing is slightly a red herring. It's sort of the same situation if she just doesn't know how to swim. I think it would be nice to organise some non-swimming activities to happen at the same time as swimming time for all the girls to participate in, like making bracelets or something. That way no one needs to feel left out and there's a variety of options for all the girls, dunzo.
posted by like_neon at 7:44 AM on May 29 [1 favorite]


Listen, we're only one getting side of the story here. I think the most respectful thing to do is to respect the family's decision and assume that they have their reasons.

I would write a reply back like:

Dear Scout's Mom,

Unfortunately, at this late date, we are unable to reschedule our party or locate an alternate venue; a deposit has already been made on the pool. However, I want to address your concerns that Litttle Scout won't be able to participate in the festivities.

We've planned a number of activities for the girls that don't involve swimming, including an egg race and a water balloon toss, in addition to the pizza and refreshments. We love spending time with Little Scout, and we hope that you'll allow us to include her in these activities. It should be a fun time for the whole troop. See you there!

Signed,

Scout Leader


Seriously. Water balloon toss. She gets to get wet, no clothes have to come off.
posted by Juliet Banana at 7:46 AM on May 29 [52 favorites]


[please focus on helping the OP solve their problem and not calling out other users? thanks.]
posted by jessamyn at 8:04 AM on May 29 [1 favorite]


Pick out a craft, pref one that works towards a badge and say there's gonna be the option of free swim time monitored by troop leader A, free run around time supervised by troop leader B, and supervised craft time supervised by troop leader C. Every swim party I was at as a Girl Scout was set up like this, because not everyone is going to want to swim all the time, and crafts are fun. You have enough adults that this is a non issue.

Your assimilation paragraph is obnoxious and not reflective of the Girl Scouts.
posted by spunweb at 8:08 AM on May 29 [4 favorites]


I attended one GSA camp and worked at another, and there was swimming at both. I'm sure we would've allowed a girl to be at Crafts twice and skip swimming, though. I like Juliet Banana's script.
posted by slidell at 8:09 AM on May 29 [1 favorite]


There is a large Somali immigrant population where I live and every time we go to the YMCA there are Somali girls and women playing in the pool dressed in their full hijab and abayas. Would the pool rules allow this girl to wear non-bathing attire (like an abaya) and at least play in the shallow end? If so, could that skirt the family's issues with wearing "bathing attire" in front of strangers?
posted by Esteemed Offendi at 8:48 AM on May 29


My local pool has women-only swim nights to accommodate the local Muslim population - the modesty rules AFAIK involve unrelated males, not all non-relatives. Is there a pool near you that offers something similar?
posted by Flannery Culp at 9:10 AM on May 29


"Part of me thinks that if these parents choose to raise their children under these restrictions in American society, part of their parenting challenge involves explaining to their kids why they can't take part in some popular American activities."
You've got this backwards. These parents are a part of American society, these restrictions are a function of American culture and American religion, and kids playing in a pool is just as American as kids not playing in a pool. You have a clear obligation to make the activities you schedule accessible too all of the girls in your troop in a way that does not discriminate on this kind of basis.

Juliet Banana's script sounds great as a possible way to make the event accessible in a way that is logistically feasible, but this is really a conversation you need to be having with the parents.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:17 AM on May 29 [9 favorites]


I would suggest making sure you have halal-certified snacks as part of the party plan (no pepperoni on the pizza!), and letting the mom know. I agree there should be a phone call here, and that you should stress that you want her daughter to continue to be a part of the troop, and the ways in which you can (and can't) accommodate them.

I think in the future there needs to be some care taken that her needs are taken into account. Most of the restrictions she is facing are ones that come with workarounds, once you know what they are (having the pool party at a time or club when it could be a closed party just for the troop and female leaders could have been an option - obviously it's probably too late for that now for this party, but it is an available option). You don't have to skew everyone's desires to her needs. But assuming that all the girls are friends and they are willing to learn what her restrictions are (can't you even get a badge for that?), they can together help come up with activities and solutions that work for everyone.
posted by Mchelly at 9:21 AM on May 29 [3 favorites]


The nice thing about being inclusive is that it helps everyone. Stop thinking about this as "We have to accommodate one annoying parent and her stupid religious restrictions" and more as "How can we offer a variety of activities so that everyone will get to do something fun, including the girls who voted for something other than a pizza-and-pool party?"

A group of girls in the troupe wanted to do something different than what has been planned. The Muslim girl scout is giving everyone a great reminder that majority-rule is not always the best solution for planning events, and giving the planners a great opportunity to make sure that all their events include a variety of activities in order to make as many scouts feel as happy and included as possible.
posted by jaguar at 9:35 AM on May 29 [2 favorites]


Also, families and parents get to determine their own comfort levels with things like strictness of religious observance, modesty, comfort with strangers, etc. Just because some other Muslim women or girls would have easier workarounds does not mean that outsiders get to impose those workarounds on this family.
posted by jaguar at 9:37 AM on May 29 [1 favorite]


I am also a GS leader (with a Muslim co-leader) and I agree with heathrowga and phunniemee. Creamroller, if your wife is on Facebook, I'd suggest she post the question on a group called Girl Scouts Gab, a closed group for adult leaders.
posted by candyland at 10:07 AM on May 29 [3 favorites]


You've been entirely reasonable, the mother has not. She is going to have to learn how to compromise so that her daughter can be included in future events without the whole troop having to submit to her religious dictates.
posted by ravioli at 11:35 AM on May 29


They don't allow their daughter to wear bathing attire in front of strangers, or male strangers? As this is a girls-only troupe, is it possible for it to be a girls-only party?
posted by corb at 11:37 AM on May 29 [3 favorites]


Corb is bringing up an excellent point. This is particularly important if you're using troop money to finance the party because if that's the case it should REALLY be an event accessible to the entire troop AND not one where dads, brothers, etc get free pizza and actual troop members who contributed that money are made to feel unwelcome.

Here are some examples of crafts I remember doing during end of summer cookouts/craft days:

1. Worry dolls

2. Staircase friendship bracelets

3. Rubber band cell phone case -- do six year olds have cell phones these days?? One of the Scouts I know made one and it's amazing -- it literally bounces if you drop her phone. However, she's ten.

4. Lava lamps (I am pretty sure this qualifies for one of the science-y badges? I led this activity myself for a troop I worked with, and it's incredibly cheap and fun. We might have talked about oil/water/surface tension and recycling). We also made it extra cool by making tornados in soda bottles with water/oil and with just water and talking about the differences we observed.

5. This is actually HELLA fun. When I ran this activity, we competed by height, ability to support weight using 1 lb books I'd weighed in advance (one innovative group actually got 13 lbs on their tower before it collapsed) and "boominess" -- how high you had to drop a book on the tower before it collapsed.

6. Eggs in flight. This one is wicked easy to prep for because you can ask the other parents to hold onto stuff like CLEANED out Styrofoam containers, milk cartoons, packing peanuts etc.

7. There's also all these art kits you can get at Michael's but then you're going to have to massage the badge requirement. The 3 troop leaders should actually have a giant book supplied by the regional council of activities appropriate to the troop age that can lead to badges. Also, please don't forget your local GS cadets, senior/ambassadors/alumna Girl Scouts, and local colleges/sororities who might be down for volunteering to help organize an alternate activity at the pool party.

In my observation, Girl Scouts really dig throwing things. Also physics. Also NOT ALIENATING A FELLOW TROOP MEMBER BECAUSE OF RELIGIOUS BELIEFS. It's a thing with us -- GS is united by a common-set of ethical core values that are linked to faith, but not defined by it. GS is committed to encouraging Scouts in exploring and affirming their faith tradition, not saying hey, no girl scouting for you! because you are Muslim/different. That's such a red herring. Would you have a problem if a Jewish family was like, hey, we keep kosher, what's up with the pizza situation? I'm seriously wondering how, after several months of working with this troop, the troop leaders didn't think this might be something they should plan for?

There are MANY problem solving solutions for this that don't involve making a six year and her mother (whose job it is to advocate for her kid and her kid's ability to participate, so it's actually totally appropriate she brought this up as a concern) feel unwelcome at an event sponsored by an organization whose job it is to empower ALL girls.

**edited for clarity
posted by spunweb at 12:24 PM on May 29 [6 favorites]


Lots to think about here, and some good advice. When I made my original comment that part of me thinks that if these parents choose to raise their children under these restrictions in American society, part of their parenting challenge involves explaining to their kids why they can't take part in some popular American activities, I perhaps misspoke. I take one poster's point that they do indeed belong to American society, so perhaps that statement was phrased poorly. What I intended to convey was that if you or your family subscribe to a certain set of beliefs outside the mainstream, (As my fundamentalist Christian parents did about dancing when I was a kid), you may have to learn some hard lessons at a young age.

At any rate, we've spoken with the mother, who is quite personable and we've enjoyed her company all along. We were mostly annoyed that she waited until the late date to spring this on us. She is not amenable to the suggestion of a full-body swimsuit (perhaps to expensive, I didn't ask). In any event, we've promised there will be a variety of activities for all kids and that nobody who doesn't want to swim won't have to. We've asked her to provide a list of activities that she thinks might be troublesome for her daughter to participate in during future events, and we will take those into account. We will do the same with the other girls, to be fair.
posted by Creamroller at 12:37 PM on May 29 [15 favorites]


I'm pleased to hear that it worked out so well for you OP.

I do think, from some of the things you've said, it might be worth while examining some of your underlying feelings about this situation, and how you might act if it crops up again. I wonder, for example, if you would have felt the same way if the little girl had a life-threatening allergy to chlorine, or an extreme water phobia, for example. She can no more pick her religion than those two things.

Additionally: What I intended to convey was that if you or your family subscribe to a certain set of beliefs outside the mainstream, you may have to learn some hard lessons at a young age. .

This is an interesting perspective. I mean, if we think about what kind of 'lessons' they might be, they could be things such as: your unchangeable needs place an unfair burden on everyone else; you don't have a right to expect people to respect your beliefs; your beliefs will be a cause for stigmatism and exclusion; your beliefs will result in conflict and awkwardness with your family, and people outside your family; needs that exist outside a nominally white, anglo-saxon, protestantish culture are not as important.

Are those really lessons that we wish to teach young children (however 'right' they may be about society's reaction etc?)? I don't know. They seem like terrible lessons and values and potentially very upsetting for a young child. Perhaps your own feelings of upset at these perceived lessons from your own childhood are shaping part of your reaction, here.

To me, I think the kind of lessons I would like to inculcate in children would include: Diversity should not just be tolerated or accommodated, but celebrated; your beliefs are just as important as anyone else's; your beliefs/culture does not place an unfair burden on anyone else; your culture is something to be proud of not something that makes you 'miss out'; Even if your culture is different to other people's, this does not make less a part of the community or group; people from different backgrounds can teach each other a lot of interesting things. And so on and so forth.

I feel like the world already has a lot of harsh lessons impressed upon children - girl and boy, muslim and christian and atheist alike - especially on those who are different, for any reasons. As a result, where I can, I try to give those kids lessons in optimism and empathy; those traits serve everyone in good stead.

Apologies if this sounds preachy or cheesy.
posted by smoke at 5:54 PM on May 29 [8 favorites]


Then her parent can chose:
1) for the girl to not attend,
2) for the girl to attend and wade in regular clothing, aka shorts/t-shirt, etc
3) to obtain modest swimwear that covers the amount she deems appropriate (yes, it is available, and doesn't really seem all that uncomfortable to swim in - there are fellow homeschoolers we do swim lessons with that hit pretty much every point from sorta modest to severely modest)

She's entitled to her belief system, but that doesn't mean she gets to control everyone's decisions or activities.
posted by stormyteal at 11:58 PM on May 29 [2 favorites]


Excellent update creamroller. I'm glad that it's working out.
You are doing a great job at working for inclusion and treating everyone equally.
I agree that parents need to help their children to both expect inclusion and accept their own limitations. Your dancing example is spot on. Religious education can be hard for kids. It's not the equivalent of an allergy or an illness, but a lifestyle to be embraced and celebrated and sometimes sacrificed for. Celebrating a religious Christmas is great fun for kids, but understanding why you can't go to the dance, go swimming with the opposite gender, wear mini skirts, eat cheeseburgers, etc, is hard. It sounds like your young scout's mom is also learning and figuring out how to uphold her values in an inclusive way. You have a great troop going. Best of luck to everyone.
posted by SLC Mom at 4:24 AM on May 30


We've asked her to provide a list of activities that she thinks might be troublesome for her daughter to participate in during future events, and we will take those into account. We will do the same with the other girls, to be fair

That's a great idea. One year my daughter's teacher (at a very diverse school) sent home a form at the beginning of the year asking if my child would want to participate in Halloween events, birthdays... I forget what else. The form didn't single any particular group out and nobody saw the returned forms but the teacher.

It could be good to send out a letter to everyone in the troop listing typical events in the year -- swimming parties, Christmas parties, co-ed camping, who knows what -- and seeing if anyone would need accommodations or alternate events in order to participate.

(At our last meeting I discovered our newest Brownie doesn't eat gelatin and thus couldn't have the brand of marshmallows we had on hand for the planned snack. My mistake.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:29 AM on May 30


IF the mom and daughter would like it, maybe you could plan a "make-up" swimming party for the end of the summer that is all-female and/or complies with whatever other needs they have. If I were the mom, I'd call it even, so to speak, after an all-female makeup.
posted by 8603 at 6:12 AM on May 31


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