The bus driver looked at me. Was it a sneer? Then he looked to the boy. "She's a feisty one, isn't she?" His words dripped with condescension. His glance gutted me. His camaraderie with the boy was more than unexpected; it was inappropriate. I learned then and there that feisty was not something I should be. I probably wondered how standing up for myself could be wrong. Or maybe I was too young to know I should ask that question of myself. I was just a kid.
Yet I remember it all these years later. Writing it down, I feel its sting fresh. I remember knowing he was wrong, yet feeling my power, my strength diminish in his demeaning gaze. Even now, I am ashamed at how it impacted me. How weak I still feel knowing my power was so easily hijacked.
I spent middle school doing that thing that way too many girls do. Giving my power to a boy in hopes he'll like me enough to make me like myself. Spoiler alert: it didn't work. But you knew that already, right? That never actually works.
I've read Reviving Ophelia. I've been a Women's Studies minor. I've reclaimed my power as a human. I've done the research and there is something in those middle school years that is so tough on a tender, growing up heart. Something that makes girls, our girls, my girl, especially susceptible to giving up their strength and their power. It is heartbreaking. It is wrong. It is time to stop it. For all girls, of course, but I am also thinking specifically of my strong, beautiful, powerful 7-year-old daughter. The thought of her feeling shame because of her strength is too much. I cherish her bold, colorful personality and take on this world far too much and I would mourn the loss of "feisty" Audrey terribly if I watched her give up on her true self.
So, what can be done?
|my little rockstar at 2|
|basking in the beauty of the world|
|practicing her ABCs|
Yet here we are. Or, rather, here we remain.
|silliness with Elliot|
|more silliness with Isaac|
|The whole gang.|
|Facing her fear head on and smiling when she had a broken leg|
Audrey is so tender. And she is so, so brave and strong. She is quick to cry, quicker to laugh and help a friend. She loves to help and serve and sometimes it takes a turn toward controlling or, here's the buzzword of the week, bossy. In fact, last week it took a hard turn in that direction. I asked her to stop doing something her brother was perfectly capable of doing and she kept doing it. So I asked her again. Then I said it louder, not a shout, but a forceful voice. It was wrong of me, done in haste because I didn't want to get up while nursing the baby to deal with the issue. And she started to cry.
I quickly walked over and gently grabbed her two teeny, soft hands, in my larger, coarser hands. I apologized for hurting her feelings. I told her that one of the gifts God gave her was the gift of helping others and that she was so very good at it. I told her one of the challenges of being so good at helping others and having such a big heart for helping others was to know when to help and when to let people do things themselves. And I asked her if it would be okay if I helped her to know the difference. She sniffed. She wiped her tears. She nodded her head, yes.
|Showing her playdough invention: telescope with the cover on|
|Telescope in action|
And I have to believe, I fervently hope, I pray, that giving voice to her strengths, the gifts given to her by a God who does not make mistakes, while also acknowledging things that challenge her will serve her well as she gets older. I have to believe that helping her see her place in this big, beautiful, terrible world will equip her to stand strong on her corner of the world when it feels like it's crumbling around her. I have to believe that conversations like this now will continue to ring in her ears when others are attempting to fill her mind with lies.
I have to believe my strong little girl will grow to be a strong young woman. And I know I will help her in any way I possibly can, hoping I know when to step in to help and when to step back and watch her do her strong, beautiful, powerful thing all on her own.
|Some of the many strong women in Audrey's life|
What are you doing to help your children, both sons and daughters, grow up strong and empathetic and powerful and loving? Is it different for your boys or girls? What do you think of Ban Bossy?