Moira: “Mommy, can you make me look like Malala?”
Yesterday we went to the beach where there was an incident that really upset Gabby and I. At this particular beach there is a break wall and on the other side it is as shallow as on the beach side. Gabby, being almost 12 and a great swimmer asked if she could go on the other side. I said yes, knowing that she doesn’t go far out and that the water wasn’t rough or dangerous- plus I was keeping an eye on all three. However, a second later she came back and said that a man told her she couldn’t go there. I told her that that was nonsense and to go back, but she refused, stating- “But he said no.” I asked why he said she couldn’t go there and it was not for her safety but because “it was set a bad example for his kids who wanted to go there!!! I sat in stunned silence for a moment, then I exploded. How dare this man restrict my girl simply because he didn’t want to deal with parenting his kids?! So I jumped up, walked her to the edge of the water and watched her go past the rocks. Sure enough, as soon as she crossed the break wall, the man’s daughter (who was much younger than Gabby) pointed to her and his head whipped around in preparation to yell at her again. However, me being in full on Mama Bear mode, yelled to him that not only did she have my permission, but that she shouldn’t have to limit herself because his kids weren’t allowed to go there. He tried to argue with me, and even after I walked back to my blanket he was glaring at both Gabby and I.
That incident upset me for a whole other reason than the obvious fact that some random guy tried to tell my kid what she could or couldn’t do for his own convenience. It upset me more that Gabby blindly listened to him, without challenging who he was or question his motives for telling her no. We had a long, deep conversation at the larger meaning behind her blindly listening to a stranger. Someone who wasn’t a police officer or a fire fighter, looking out for her safety. We talked about why kids get tricked into dangerous situations by blindly listening to grownups, the importance of listening to your “tummy voice”, and that it is ok to ask questions and to get help if you don’t feel safe- even with someone you know.
I’m sure that this incident will lead to many more conversations, but necessary ones because I’d rather have my girls get in trouble for standing up for themselves than get in even more trouble for blindly listening. I want my mighty girls to have a strong voice, inside and out, that will help them navigate this world where women are blamed for their own rape and told that their worth lies in how they are viewed by men. I want them to push and push, talk back, question, be loud, take up space, be fearless. And most importantly, I want to set an example for them by doing the same!