Raising a Girl Who Believes She Can

“Mom, Mason says I can’t play with the football because I am a girl.” “When we play Mason says I can’t be a fireman.” “Mason says he is stronger than me.”

These are just some of the comments that my daughter, Abby, tells me on the car ride home from daycare. “Tell Mason he can mind his own business,” is what I would like to say, in full mama bear mode, but instead, I say, “What did I teach you to tell Mason or anyone that tells you things like that?” She says softly from the back seat, “I am a smart, strong girl and I can do anything.” “That’s right, sweetheart,” I encourage her. “Stand up for yourself. You deserve respect.”

I believe strongly in teaching my daughter that she can play with the football, she can pretend to be a firefighter, she is strong. I want to empower and encourage her. I don’t want her to feel limited to be what a man (or boy) thinks she is or should be, what society says is appropriate for a girl to be. I don’t want her to think she must play with Barbies and Baby Alive instead of Iron Man and Luke Skywalker, that she has to be interested in makeup instead of cars. It’s OK to be interested one or the other, or both. Interests and preferences will grow and change as she does.

Saturday we were browsing in Hobby Lobby and she wanted to leave the aisle we were in, which had science experiment kits, rockets, and models, because, “It’s all boy stuff.” It makes me angry that at two years old she has already begun to adhere to the cultural mindset that if the aisle is not full of glittery, heart-covered, frilly pink things or dolls, it must be for boys and is therefore not interesting or for her.

I try to balance out all the bedtime fairytales with stories about women like Amelia Earhart and Sally Ride. I buy t-shirts with the NASA logo on them instead of just Frozen characters or Doc McStuffins. If the Dory pajamas are all sold out in her size I will buy the cooler ones on the “boy’s” side of the aisle. I encourage her to help dad hang a shelf or help grandpa in the garage.

I don’t want her to be put into a box by society, I want her to choose. I want her to grow up being confident and knowing that she is smart, she is strong, she can do anything. She is not limited to certain interests, career paths, or opportunities because she is female. She should grow up with the conviction that she deserves and should demand respect.

I believe she can and she will too.

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