There are so many causes I am passionate about (each word is it's own link there). I certainly can't say that it's hard to get me fired up. I often take on ideas and run with them. Fueled by an intense feeling that something has to be addressed right here, right now. Picking just one to write about was not easy, but writing about the one I've chosen will be. In light of recent events, I don't think you'll be surprised.
When I close my eyes, I can bring myself back to the dark ultrasound room. It was late February 2001. My midwives had suggested I have an ultrasound because my fundal measurements were a full 10 weeks ahead of my actual weeks in pregnancy. Suspecting I had way more amniotic fluid than I needed, they booked me in for a cold February morning. Until that point, everything was going smoothly. Yes, I did have too much fluid, but the baby seemed healthy and happy. So far nothing that required immediate attention. I felt relieved and resigned to continue with this pregnancy the way I wanted to.
I breathed a bit easier, expecting to be dismissed by the technician when she asked "Do you want to know the sex? I have a perfect shot right here. A 'glass floor' shot, we call it."
I looked at John and he looked at me and we shrugged. "Sure. Why not?" I said.
"Did you say you have two girls at home? Well, invest in Tylenol, Dad. Girl Number 3 is on the way." To this day her statement about Tylenol baffles me, but we'll move on because I'm not sure now is that time for that rant.
"Holy Shit!" I yelped out. Up until that point that I was having a girl was only a feeling. A nagging little something in the back of my head. "Three girls! I'm going to have three girls. John, THREE GIRLS!"
For the rest of my pregnancy I rolled that fact around in my head like a marble. Excited and terrified that sometime that May or June, I would have three daughters in my charge. Why I was excited is more than likely pretty obvious, but terrified? Why? That's hard to explain without opening up many age old debates, but I'll simplify.
I wanted to do my best to raise confident, intelligent, fearless and amazing females.
And here I am. Mom to 4. Three of whom are girls. Three of whom will (sooner than I think) be women.
As their Mother, I am the first example of womanhood. The one they look up to for guidance and support. I can see it. They watch me intently. Any cues they have as to how to be an adult woman, a spouse, a mother, they get from me. When I think back to my own formative years I remember the one thing that made me feel the way I want to raise my girls to be. Confident, fearless, fun, amazing. Being active.
While running I feel alive and challenged, alone with my thoughts. I push my abilities. If I am participating in a team sport I feel important and relied upon. As though the game could not go on without me or each and every member of that group. As individuals we are strong. As a team, we are unstoppable. Prone to depression, being active in sport keeps that at bay. Notoriously absent minded I find my ability to focus is stronger when I'm physically fit. Knowing that my perfomance depends on my body, I eat better and I'm more aware of the foods I choose.
There are so many benefits to being active, whether individually or team sports. I've always felt strongly that I should pass this passion on to my daughters. The advancement of women in sport is very important to me.
When my girls see me leave the house for a run, they see my face light up. They ask me how far I plan to go. How long do I think it will take? Can they wait for me on the porch? When I return they cheer me on and offer me water. They feed me and fuel me and their pride intensifies my resolve for them to continue seeing their mother as an active person. Often they attend my soccer games and cheer my whole team from the sidelines. They hear me encourage and support my teammates. They witness me treating opponents with respect and mutual admiration.
As much as I lead by example, I encourage them to play a role as well. From a young age Kristyn has shown an interest in sport, particularly soccer and basketball. I remember driving with her in the van past a girls soccer game, most likely a U15 team. She yelled out "SOCCER! Me play Soccer!" As soon as she was eligible she wanted to play and we enrolled her. Despite being one of the only girls on that tiny team, she didn't hold back. It was pretty clear this kid has passion and some natural ability.
Since those early days I've been involved on some level. This year committing myself in a way that, because of much younger siblings, I couldn't before. I was her head coach. A team of 10 year old girls to myself was a bit daunting, but easily one of the most rewarding things I've ever done. Throughout the season they got better and better. Eager to learn and improve with me leading them. At their End Of Year Cup Tournament I experienced girls in sports like I never have before. Through five intense games over a three day period they never took their focus off the potential result. They let nothing stop them, played hard but remained respectful and polite throughout some grueling moments. Had they not won the final game, they still would have been champions to me, because they came out and they tried. One parent made my heart soar just by saying "How do you feel? You brought them here!"
Erin is not much different. She possesses a natural athletic ability that baffles me. I feel like I've always had to try hard and work just a bit more. In her first year out of soccer school on a female team she dominated and was a force to come up against. All the while maintaining grace and compusure that I'm reasonably sure you have to be born with. While she truly is talented at soccer, she consistently excels in dance. As does Meghan, her younger sister and our third girl. They move so confidently. Like each foot just knows where to go. In 15 minutes they can choreograph a dance and not move out of step once.
Both Erin and Meghan are on competitive dance teams at a local studio. Though not considered so by some, dance is a sport as well as art. The term "team" is taken very seriously. There are weekly practices and meetings. A lot of time is spent preparing for competitions where the girls are taught to behave as representatives of their school. They wear the uniform with pride, knowing that many other people are depending on them to try their best. The life of a dance team Mom is not a quiet one. Each event requires preparation, promotion and a lot of time. I doubt I would change any of it.
As long as all of my girls are as thrilled to be as involved as they are now, I will continue to support and provide what is required. I can often be heard encouraging other mothers to do so as well (in a not pushy, informative way!). Through sport we are all learning time management, planning skills and how to be dependable. We've all made many new friends and formed bonds. There has been a chance to see groups of women at their best. Our bodies feel good. Our minds are clearer. When I look around at the faces of other women on my team and at the faces of the girls on my daughters' teams I am truly proud to have been born as one of them. A woman. Fearless. Active. Confident. Unstoppable.
There are so many places to learn more about the advancement of women and girls in sport. You can be involved as much as you feel the need. Not every girl needs to be a cleat toting soccer force or an award winning dancer. Go with your daughter's interests and abilities. I also want to point out that being the most competitive or most successful is not always key. Fun is. Keep it fun and enjoyable. That being said the status of women in sport has never been better. Young girls have amazing opportunities to be involved on many levels, in tonnes of sports!
Here are some of my favourite sites for more information:
- Canadian Asociation For The Advancement Of Women And Sport And Physical Activity
- Mothers In Motion
- Girls And Sports
- Buy A Girl A Ball Not A Doll
- Women's Hockey In Canada
- Go Big Red, Canada's Women's Soccer Team
- Dance Canada
Blog Posts of my own referring to sports, both regarding myself and my daughters: