The merit of no merit

January 10th, 2010

The other day I sewed a half dozen new merit badges on a girl scout sash. Since my daughter graduated in the scouting ranks her new sash has been empty. The flag patch waves on her slim shoulder; the troop numbers march across her collar bone; but the merit was entirely missing. We studied the scouting book and decided that – lookee there! – several of her passionate pastimes already measured up for an award without doing anything more. We skipped the fine print in favor of a quick feather or two.

Honestly, how good does a good kid have to get?

The merit of a badge is equal to the merit of a mother sewing on the badge, which is to say, there is no merit. But I forget. I keep thinking there’s something for me to figure out, something to get, something to show. That there’s something that good mothers do, and some way that good daughters prove it. I’m always wrong about that.

She paraded off to school with six new badges to flash. They don’t mean a thing. But it’s a nice wide sash, this margin of error, this no-badge of honor, where good girls grow up by themselves and mothers simply stop keeping score.

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  1. These recent merit badges just acknowledge the merit she already experienced and earned. I would not think of it as not really receiving merit, but that she has already earned her merit without having a book to state it out. YOu could even think of it as she obtained merit without having to have a book tell her as well as only work towards merit because theirs a material reward in the end.

    Comment by MJ — January 10, 2010 @ 6:09 pm

  2. Imagine a world without the word, or the notion of, merit.

    Comment by KIM CHISHIN RUSSO — January 10, 2010 @ 8:20 pm

  3. I'm smiling as you've just reminded me of the dozen or so badges I need to sew onto my 2 daughters vests. *sigh*

    Comment by Emme — January 10, 2010 @ 8:57 pm

  4. At the end of my practice when I get to the dedication of merit, there is a moment, a small moment, where I think, "No, MINE!” Old Habits, Merit Badges, and Gold Stars die hard.

    Comment by Nova Bradfield — January 10, 2010 @ 11:04 pm

  5. I miss girl scouts. *sigh* I loved sewing those badges onto her vest. Oddly enough, she never earned her sewing badge so the sewing was always left up to me.
    I agree with the others. The merit is in the doing, not in the following of a book to the letter. She should wear those badges with pride!

    Comment by Stephanie @ Bona Fide — January 11, 2010 @ 1:52 am

  6. We are deep in the midst of cookie sales in sub-freezing temps – with the same waving flag, marching troop numbers and lack of visible indicators of merit.

    Oh that we could all stop keeping score.

    Comment by Renae C — January 11, 2010 @ 2:01 pm

  7. I'm so glad your here, helping me to remember what I always forget.

    Comment by Sheryl — January 11, 2010 @ 8:50 pm

  8. What! No Badge? When I did something that I was mighty please about as a girl, my mother used to say "What do you want? A Doey Button?"


    I still want a Doey Button.

    Comment by pixie — January 12, 2010 @ 4:56 am

  9. *pleaseD*

    oh dear.

    Comment by pixie — January 12, 2010 @ 4:56 am

  10. Doey Buttons sewed without merit.:)

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — January 12, 2010 @ 5:04 am

  11. The merit badge is in your heart, Karen, and in your beautiful daughter's heart . . .

    With much metta,


    Comment by Marguerite Manteau-Rao — January 12, 2010 @ 6:02 am

  12. There you go again, hitting the nail on the head. There's probably a badge (or at least an app?) for that.


    Comment by Terri Fischer — January 12, 2010 @ 6:04 pm

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