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Girls Can Be Strong; Parents Can Help
My parents told me this story of when I was turning two. It was my birthday party, and I was opening presents. I ripped off paper and discovered a small bag. Inside there were rocks. I squealed, ran to our pond, and promptly threw them in, one by one.
Apparently, my parents had suggested to one party-goer that I’d love a bag of rocks. At the time, I thought it was the best present ever. I loved throwing things, loved the big splash, and loved seeing how far I could throw. Even at age two, I wasn’t conforming to the clichéd stereotypes of a girl. I was my own person.
When I recently asked my parents why they raised me as a tomboy and not a girly girl, they both said that wasn’t exactly what they had set out to do. “Instead,” my dad replied, “it was of great importance for our girls to have great personal power.” This makes total sense. He pushes me every day to do my best and makes sure I reach my highest potential.
My mom agreed: “(A parent of a girl) should impress upon your daughter that girls can achieve whatever they want to in life— gender should not be any kind of limiting factor.”
And it hasn’t been for me. I was eight when I began ice hockey. I started on a girls’ team, but I wasn’t pushed enough. We would glide through drills, and it wasn’t fun. I barely got any exercise, and I didn’t learn anything. My dad found out about this, and he quickly signed me up on a boys’ team. I loved it. I was pushed hard, and because of that, I am now a devoted, hardworking hockey player. I enjoy the game, and I stay fit.
Hockey is a big thing for me; I look forward to it each year. I gain strength from playing, and I’m not afraid to skate hard and show that girls can be strong, just like boys.
Since I moved to Maine as a baby, I have lived on a farm. I also grow strong doing farm work: I haul water, deliver food to my chickens and turkeys, and fling hay bales to our sheep. My parents think that being strong physically helps build self-confidence. Also, life on a farm taught me how lambs are born. What is a bloody mess for some is a miracle to me. I was taught that it is okay to get my hands dirty and learn new things. I think the stereotype for strength is a big guy with big muscles, which is unfair for boys and girls. I don’t want the definition of strength to be a big guy; I want it to be a strong-willed, able-bodied human being.
Cycling back to when I was three: at another of my birthday parties, I tore the wrapping off a box. I flipped it over and found a Barbie. I set it down, and it quickly got buried by other presents. Later, when I wasn’t looking, my parents threw the Barbie out. My mom hates it when girls feel they have to compare themselves to the false image of dolls or models in magazines. She says, directly, to the parents of a girl, “She should be taught to look critically at all the images in magazines and advertising that perpetuate girls’ insecurity about the way they look. They are not realistic!” That is quite typical of my mom —she expresses that opinion a lot around the house. I think it’s important to stress this idea with girls, to help us understand the importance of not comparing our bodies and faces with those in magazines.
When I asked my parents about advice to other parents with daughters, they responded in similar fashion: “Don’t give in to societal pressure,” my dad urged. My mom spoke about body images in magazines and sports that are centered on body image, e.g., gymnastics, ballet, and figure skating. I personally think that it is very important for girls to be raised as equals to boys and to their highest potential. And as my dad put it, “Enjoy your kids, and encourage them to be strong, intelligent, individuals.”
That’s what matters most.
Plus, a bag of rocks wouldn’t hurt.