“I immediately prepared to deliver my ‘She’s allowed to use this park just as much as you guys’ speech,” Thomas wrote in a letter to the boy posted on Twitter after the encounter. Instead, the boy told Peyton, “Your feet are wrong. Can I help you?”
I came across a story yesterday on the internet. A little girl had always wanted to learn to skateboard, but worried she couldn’t because it was a “boy’s sport”. Her mother wanted to instill confidence in her daughter, and encouraged her to try anyway. Skateboard in hand they walked into the local skatepark. Her daughter struggled, as teen boys whizzed by. Suddenly one of the teens approached her daughter. The mother anticipated that he was going to chide her for even being there. Instead, on bent knee he began to help the little girl, spending over an hour encouraging her and sharing his experience with her.
When I first read the story, I was just really impressed by the young man’s willingness to help. As a mother of three girls, I am always encouraged when I read accounts of the fine young men who still exist in this world. It is an affirmation that moms and dads are out there raising amazing young men. When my sixteen year old came into the room, I decided to read the story to her because I thought it was cute.
I started to cry, almost from the beginning. She thought I lost my mind, it was a cute story. I couldn’t even get through some of the sentences without stumbling over words and blubbering. Later we were talking about it and she asked why I was crying.
This is why: I was that little girl, well over twenty years ago. I remember being an oddity, and I honestly thought this mindset was something that changed long ago. We have female skaters who are featured in magazines and skate competitions. How in the world could a mom today walk into the skate park concerned that her daughter wouldn’t be accepted??
I remember being at a skatepark in 1996, I was a teenager and actually pretty good. This was a new course for me, and I wasn’t familiar with all the of quirks of it. I was there with my boyfriend at the time and a crew of six other guys. We had a few runs in, and since I wasn’t exactly inexperienced I decided to try something new. I wiped out, hard. Really, really hard.
I started to cry, not heaping sobs, but just a response to the pain I was experiencing. This wasn’t a common response for me, I nearly broke my hip once and still kept on skating without the bat of an eye. So clearly, I was in serious pain. My boyfriend skated by, glancing down briefly, and chided “skaters don’t cry” and kept on his way. Perhaps he was trying to toughen me up, I don’t know. It was the six other guys from the crew that came over, helped me up, and made sure I was ok. They also gave him a stern ribbing for being such a jerk.
I was so embarrassed over crying, I did my best to let it roll of my back and move on with the day. Into the evening, I was still hurting. It would take a few days for me to fully recover.
Now I look back on that time, and I wonder WHY. Why did I think it wasn’t ok to cry? Maybe skaters don’t cry, but I was a girl and I was hurt. I responded in a perfectly normal way and hated myself for it. When we bought into feminism, we bought into this idea that not only could women do everything that men could do… but that we would share their response. If they could take a licking and not cry, so could we. In toughing ourselves we were suppressing the very thing that made us women.
When God created man and woman, they were created equal. They were also created differently. Our approach to the same task will be different, our response to adversity will be different. A difference in response doesn’t negate our ability to do the job or complete the task. There will be things that come more naturally to men, but this doesn’t mean women can’t learn those same things. There are some roles that come more naturally to women, but it doesn’t mean that men can’t learn to fulfill those same roles.
As women we need to be confident in our role as women, instead of putting barriers in what we can or can’t do because of gender…. I’d rather embrace that whatever I do, I will do it as a woman with her God given sensibilities. I will learn, like a woman. I will love, like a woman. I will lead, like a woman. I will worship God, like a woman. I will read with a woman’s perspective. I will write from a woman’s experience. I can be wise, like a woman. I can also be strong, like a woman.
And in those moments when I begin to question if I am strong enough… or if I am being too strong. I will cry, like a woman.
And some days…. I will laugh, like a woman.
I may have cried at the skatepark… but we all cry sometimes….