Something extraordinary happened last weekend. It was the 2015 Women’s World Cup Draw. I stood behind our couch ironing clothes as my 14 year old sat before me glued to the television. The broadcast opened with a panel of former and current female soccer elites. Their anticipation and excitement for the draw matched our own. We were within minutes of knowing how the first round of matches would line-up when I felt an all-too-familiar lump in my chest. It’s a physiological sensation I tend to get when an unexpected emotion is about to surge through my body and being. I couldn’t completely discern the emotion in those moments that tears began to well up in my smiling eyes. Was it gratitude? Anticipation? Joy? I wasn’t quite sure…but I know what you’re thinking- Really? All of this emotion over the Women’s World Cup? And the answer is YES. And not exactly.
I must disclose that I did not really grow up loving soccer. I was an athlete in my early years, no question about that. I spent most of my time in dance studios, including the one my mom owned for a period of time. As I approached middle school, I discovered I was fast and strong and tall and determined on both the basketball court and the soccer field. My father had a brief basketball career extending beyond college to the professional realm of European sports. My mother was a dancer, turned aerobic instructor in the eighties before beginning her career in nursing (I should mentioned she competed in Rebok’s National Aerobic Championship when I was still in elementary school). So it was sort of in my blood, but I never really landed and settled onto either the dance floor, the soccer field or the basketball court. Looking back, I was probably most physically suited for soccer, but by the end of my eighth grade year, when it was time to anticipate athletics in High School, one of my girlfriends asked if I’d tryout for cheerleading with her. With little personal direction and having an adolescent-hormone-bathed-brain that already identified the amount of attention the cheerleaders received from the male athletes, I hopped right on that train heading no where good. Thus marking the end of my athletic opportunities. Though, I should mention (or brag) that I did later play on an adult co-ed soccer league in the beginning of my marriage and also went on to fulfill a bucket-list item when I danced for a hip-hop company after having my first two babies.
I promise there was a point to that personal narrative detour. As I stood at my ironing board that morning, peering at the screen that was showcasing such strong, talented and beautiful female athletes, it dawned on me that I couldn’t recall a single strong female role model from my childhood memory. I’m not suggesting that there weren’t women worth admiring and looking up to when I was a developing girl, but I don’t recall being exposed to any that awakened my heart, strengthened my hope or focused my dreams. I pondered for a moment how my life may have taken a very different path had I been witness to more female narratives of greatness back then. In a split-second I was overwhelmed with the importance for girls to WITNESS the possiblities for their lives. We need more women in the pulpit. We need women in governement…yes, we need a female president. We need women’s voices to be present in the media. We need women’s sports to be televised. We need coming-of-age stories that showcase a female narrative. We need Oprah. We need Katniss Everdeen. We all need more women.
Nearly three years ago, my husband drove our three older girls to Utah so they could watch the US Women play in a friendly against Canada prior to the Olympics. Alex Morgan was being interviewed just before the game was about to begin directly in front of where my girls were all sitting. It was a moment they will never forget. We realized then that we would need to be intentional about exposing them to the narratives of a multitude of strong, determined and talented women, but my heart aches for a time when such intentionality is no longer necessary. I long for the day that women’s narratives hold equal weight in a world where they carry half the sky.
My 3 loves taking a photo of one of their heroes (standing behind a fan with a ridiculously large hat)!
*Sunday Specials are a weekly round-up of happenings on the web-o-sphere. So enjoy your coffee (or late night beverage) while checking out what’s caught our attention.
We saw how our friends’ children needed help when divorce, alcoholism or addictions befell them and we offered our homes, our carpooling, babysitting, and our ears and hearts to listen to their desperation. We wondered why them and not us? We watched our children lose friends for insignificant reasons and we saw our children befriend others and start over again. We weathered daughters not getting asked to dances and sons being a foot shorter than his seventh grade date. We were humbled as our children didn’t always shine or failed or rebelled and experienced punishments or even arrests. We learned not to judge other’s as we were humbled in ways we never expected.
Talking about race is challenging for many parents, especially White parents. There is a lot of fear and uncertainty about this topic – from worrying that by pointing out race we are contributing to racism, to believing that by ignoring race we are creating a “color-blind” and therefore more equal world; some simply don’t know how or where to start. And we need to get over it.
The List of Rules for Women
Feel free to share thoughts on any of these links as well as what caught your attention this week!
A couple of weeks ago, my almost ten year old daughter, Krisalyn, was gearing up for a trip out to Virginia to see her twin cousin. Ayla, my older brother’s daughter, was born on the exact same day only a few hours before Krisalyn. From Skype chats to holiday gatherings, it is clear that these two girls adore each other. My mother kindly offered to travel with Krisalyn as an early birthday present for both granddaughters. It was a first for us – sending our third of four daughters halfway across the country, albeit with her Nana. The days leading up to the trip were filled with excited squeals and bubbling anticipation. Krisalyn did not reveal a single speck of trepidation or anxiety about the five days she would be separated from the rest of us.
In some regard, Krisalyn’s lack of ambivalence about the trip surprised me. She was the baby of our family for quite some time. Briella didn’t enter the picture until Krisalyn had relished (and occasionally despised) being the youngest of our bunch for over eight years. She has always been a homebody and often declares that she wants to live with me even into adulthood. I knew she would have a wonderful time on this trip, but I had anticipated at least a momentary freak out at the idea of being away from us for five whole days. But a freak out never really came.
On the day of her departure, she and I were packing up her belongings when I paused to take note of the transition I was becoming aware of in those moments. My little girl was individuating and sorting out her separateness from me to a new degree. This process of individuating is always at play throughout our development, but I do believe Krisalyn was experiencing a significant growth spurt these summer months leading up to the trip. As I reflected on the shift in how she situated herself with me and how I was now adjusting and situating myself with this more independent version of her, I felt that familiar heartache that accompanies so many chapters of motherhood.
I’ve been thinking about that ache for weeks now – trying to sort out what it’s inviting me to feel, to name, to release. In the past, I have presumed that it is a form of nostalgia as we realize that our children are growing, that time is going by, that our stories continue to plunge ahead whether we’re ready or not. And perhaps that’s part of it. But these past few weeks of reflection have led me to new insight about this maternal ache.
One of my favorite professors during my grad program helped me understand that too often we associated “growing up” with “growing big” when what we all really need is to “grow down” or to “grow small”. As I continue to journey alongside each of my daughters, I learn more and more about the wisdom behind these sentiments. We live in a western world that tries to convince us that the goal of development is to grow up and need less – to become self-reliant and independent. Its easy to understand how this mentality has gained traction. As we travel through the stages of physical development from infancy, through toddlerhood, childhood and on into adulthood our capacity to tend to our own physical needs consistently increase (until we come full circle and reestablish a need for physical care in the final stages of life). But I’m not convinced that our emotional and spiritual development follows this same logic. Instead, I actually believe that the maturation of the inner self looks more like a “growing down” – a delving deeper into the knowledge of all of our longings and needs throughout our life. Strength is about honesty and authenticity, not about cutting off and suppressing need. Courage is about living out of that honest and vulnerable reality, not about denying or rejecting our fears.
So back to that maternal ache. As I sat there preparing to send this child of mine off on an airplane, I desperately wanted her to understand that it is more than okay for her to still feel her own need – not for my sake, but for her sake. Individuation is about growing in our awareness that we really are separate human beings. There is a distance between my inner self and the people and world around me. And the same is true of your inner self. Individuation is about realizing more and more just how separate we are…and simultaneously realizing more and more just how much we need connection because of that separateness. I know better than anyone just how much my children have needed me and just how much they will still need me as they continue to grow and develop…just in different ways.
Just before we left the house to pick up my mother and head the airport, Krisalyn stopped me and said, “Mommy, I don’t know if I’ll be able to get out of the car when we get to the airport. It will be too hard to say goodbye to you.” I didn’t try to comfort her by denying that it would be hard or by telling her that she would be alright. Instead I held her and acknowledged, “Of course it will be hard kiddo. It’ll be hard for me too.”