Kinsey Smith, like the other young ladies the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida honored as Gold Award winners, stood at the podium and acknowledged all who helped her achieve the prestigious designation — sort of the equivalent of the Boy Scouts' Eagle Scout program — including her parents.
And then the Newsome High junior added a caveat, thanking her mother for telling her to "get over it" when she complained in middle school that none of her friends stuck with Girl Scouts.
The statement crystallized my perspective. As my daughter prepares to enter middle school, I wonder about the new challenges we may encounter during her wonder years. Yes, we already crossed this plain with my college-age sons, but my friends who have daughters insist it's different with girls — and they're not just talking gender.
They say the emotional upheavals will be more dramatic and the mood swings will be 180 degrees.
But never one to pass up on an opportunity to arm myself with knowledge, I used last week's Girl Scouts Gold and Silver Award Gala at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa for a simple inquiry. These moms and dads, who rightfully basked in the glow of their daughters' successes, surely held the keys to success. I was certain they would tell me not to worry.
Marva Louisville, a member of the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida board and a mother of a boy and a girl, conceded that differences exist.
At a young age, girls tend to be well behaved while boys are full of energy, she said. But during the transition to adolescence, her son grew sweeter while her daughter presented a few emotional eruptions that she and her husband had to manage.
Like many of the parents, she stressed keeping them involved. Her daughter, Meredith, played a number of sports at All Saints High School in Winter Haven and is preparing to start classes at the University of Miami.
Meredith also earned a Gold Star by creating an outdoor math area to combat historically low standardized test scores in Polk County.
Michelle Padgett's daughter Baillie, 15, teamed with Gemma Briggs, 14, to be among the 150 Girl Scouts who earned Silver Star recognition. The pair taught an antibullying program to sixth-graders at Dunedin Highland Middle School.
Mrs. Padgett said there are differences between boys and girls, but they aren't great, and offered three simple words: fair, firm and consistent.
Perhaps the best advice came from Leslie Blake, the mother of Wharton High graduate Jamila Blake, who won a Gold Star Award in 2012 and was named a 2013 National Girl Scouts of the USA Young Woman of Distinction. Leslie and her husband, Russell, have four daughters and a goddaughter.
"Keep them talking," said Leslie Blake, who repeatedly spoke of her daughters as a blessing. "Keep them talking and make sure you listen. Hear what they're saying and try not to predict it."
I've already promised my daughter I'm going to listen more, but I'm also going to encourage her to stay active in Girl Scouts.
Sure, I would love to be one of those parents someday, but more important, I want her to believe in making a difference in the community.
I know she can learn that from the Girl Scouts, and in the process leave all those societal pitfalls in her wake.
A Girl Scout Gold Award — that would just be gravy.
That's all I'm saying.