The Life of Huynh 807

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Ways to Raise Brave Girls Outside Online

I rode behind Pippa, watching her handle her bike with confidence, control, and joy. If there’s any sweeter sound than a little girl oohing and ahhing as she banks through turns and up and over dusty berms, I don’t know what it is. Still there were moments when I had to bite my tongue and resist the urge to scream Careful!or Slow Down!, half expecting to come around a corner and find her endo ed in the dirt. The desire to protect our children from harm is innate and reflexive and, at times, all consuming.

As I like to joke to my husband, mothers’ worry is what keeps the human race alive. But too much can be limiting and, especially for girls, potentially detrimental to their development. Paul, 52, was one of the first female firefighters in San Francisco in 1989. One of the first things she tells me during a phone call is that most parents, often without realizing it, treat girls differently than boys. “Even the most progressive, open minded parents caution them more, saying, Be careful. Oh, no you shouldn’t.

Or, Watch out!” she says. “There’s a sense that our daughters need more protection than sons, which is ironic, because before age 11, girls are ahead of boys physically and emotionally. My twin sister and I could beat every boy in class until seventh grade. Until then, we were the same as boys. And we break the same as boys.

”It’s never too early—or late—to raise girls to be fearless and adventuresome. “I want to gird girls with life lessons of bravery and resilience before puberty, before the real pressures kick in: to be liked at all costs, to look pretty, to be perfect,” says Paul, whose own madcap childhood escapades included trying to set the Guinness World Record for crawling when she was 13 years old. The distance to beat was 12 miles; nearly hypothermic, she quit at mile eight. “Going outdoors gives you confidence and self esteem to handle the teenage years, and it carries into womanhood, too,” Paul says. “Nature doesn’t care what you look like or if you’re popular or nice.

What it cares about is if you’re a good team player. ”My two girls have been game and outgoing from the get go, but I knew I might be unwittingly sending mixed messages about fearfulness and danger, so I inventoried my recent behavior for signs of gender bias: Would I have encouraged my daughters to hit ski jumps faster and launch higher if they were sons?Doubtful. I have no problem shouting at their ski buddies, who are boys, to slow down if I think they’re out of control yeah, I’m that mom. If they had Y chromosomes would I let them play unsupervised in the sandy arroyo near our house, collecting iron with little magnets, without checking to make sure they were safe from strangers every ten minutes?Possibly. Take stock of your own prejudices in different scenarios and ask yourself honestly if, now, knowing what you do about girls’ capabilities, you really need to hover so closely while she hauls off across the monkey bars.

Would you do the same with your son?“Emotions are complicated,” explains Paul, “and as girls, we are acculturated very early to fear. But here’s the thing: the rush of fear feels a lot like excitement. Sometimes they’re just feeling exhilarated when they're faced with a steep hill on their bike. Girls need tools to understand the emotions as they grow up. ” We should encourage girls to go outside their comfort zone, Paul says.

“When they are scared, say ‘OK, you’re scared. What else are you feeling?’ Then let them name their feelings: excitement, confidence, et cetra. Talk to them about their skill level so they can put fear in its place and go forward. I really think that if you give them guidance, fear won’t stop them. ”As Eleanor Roosevelt once famously said, “Do something every day that scares you. ” Give equal or greater air

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