Tag: go girls

What They’ll Remember

Jennifer Blackberry Photos - 2013 244I try to remind myself that my children are having their childhood now. Does that sound kind of obvious?! It does to me, too. What I mean is that at some point in the last few years it really struck me how much our individual childhoods influence, mold, and inform us—and that we get only one! For my kids, that time is now.

We each have the version of our childhood that we stick to and repeat. It’s the version of life as we knew it, independent of our parents’ perspectives of how we experienced life with them, in our families of origin.  Our story of growing up can make sense of our successes and our challenges, and of our idiosyncrasies and uniqueness. And most parents hope that–whether what they are doing is it’s right, wrong, or good enough–their children grow up remembering parents at least tried to give them all they could. Life’s not all Disneyland and dessert, but we need our kids to cherish memories of togetherness, joy, support, and unconditional love as much as possible.

According to author, David Willis, children will remember a short, but important list, “The 5 Things Your Kids Will Remember About You”:

  1. The times you made them feel safe
  2. The times you gave them your undivided attention
  3. The way you interacted with your spouse/partner
  4. Your words of affirmation AND your words of criticism
  5. Your family traditions

I have put this small but hugely important list on my family’s fridge to remind my husband and me that what is important now, through the years of raising our kids and all that brings, is what they will likely take with them. It’s probably not the organic breakfasts or help with Common Core Math (what the?!) or all the driving to ballet or Taekwondo or the regular dental appointments or the Star Wars sheets or the number of things to fill the spaces.

Summer-Fall 2013 515What they’ll probably look back to the moments in time, like sleeping together on the family room floor after the early morning earthquake stopped shaking the house; or the “tell me more” moments of attention that didn’t include checking texts or business emails; or how often they saw their parents express their love to each other; and before bed pep talks, and words of encouragement through their tears about social stress or friend drama or the death of a beloved grandparent; and all the holiday dinners and extended family memories of being together and sharing life. These are what will likely inform them in their own possible journeys of parenthood.

And these are the moments they will likely remember and hold close. And these are the moments that are still in my and my husband’s control to create. John Bradshaw famously wrote that “it’s never too late to have a happy childhood…” And I know it’s never too late to start making it even happier for our children.

 

The Land of Counterpane

minnie-dibdin-spooner-the-land-of-counterpane-the-golden-staircase-1906-1I was sick all of last week, only I didn’t know it. I kept thinking I was getting better, but I kept on getting worse. It wasn’t until Friday when I had an actual t e m p e r a t u r e that I realized maaaaybe I shouldn’t go to work, and maaaaybe I would have to buy something other than allergy pills to see me through.

I can’t remember the last time I had a fever. It must’ve been around the same time I bought my old-fashioned glass thermometer. You know, the kind with m e r c u r y in it. The kind that I couldn’t read when I was little, but my parents, miraculously, could, another confirmation of adulthood’s otherworldly status.

Being sick meant several things when I was a girl: dry toast for breakfast, regular mini-glasses of orange juice, St. Joseph’s Children’s Aspirin in those tiny pink tablets, no tv, cool washrag compresses on my forehead, and lots of books. And one of my favorite books was A Child’s Garden of Verses (do kids still read this?).

Why? Because in the book itself there was a little boy who was sick, too! Just like I was. And just like I was doing, he was making up games to amuse himself, creating hills with his knees and covers, pretending he was a giant. Stuff like that. I surrounded myself with my dolls and stuffed animals and we would have tremendous adventures, building forts and hiking long distances, all without leaving my crib (I slept in a crib for a long time, but that’s another story).

Because I live alone, last week I did have to rouse myself to eat and drink and tend to Misha, my cat. But that delicious feeling of being half awake, half asleep, lying in bed and seeing pictures through a fuzzy haze and at odd angles? That reaching for any one of a number of books or magazines and diving in? Snuggling with a sympathetic pet? It was just like being four again, just as novel—slightly magical, slightly special. And while I don’t relish coughing and sneezing and sweating it out, it comforts me to know that I can still provide myself the best entertainment, when the chips are down. My odd little brain hasn’t failed me yet…

When I was sick and lay a-bed,
I had two pillows at my head,
And all my toys beside me lay
To keep me happy all the day.

 

Got Calm?

August 2014 115I have taught a lot of kids and teens in my seven year position as an instructor with the personal safety organization, Kidpower Teenpower Fullpower International. And I’ve talked to as many concerned parents.

Parents usually have two big worries: how to keep their children healthy and how to keep them safe. I remember—as a new mother with my first baby, a girl—wondering how in the world I’d manage to keep her alive, let alone safe, thriving, and happy! The responsibility was vast and overwhelming. The thirty pregnancy books I’d read, the myriad holistic modalities I’d practiced, the prenatal and couples’ yoga classes, the three very different pre-birth classes my husband and I had taken; None of these would ever prepare me for the hugeness of becoming a mother, let alone the birth that led up to it.

And I’ll admit the thought of having a girl first, instead of that testosterone-buffer of a boy that I’d dreamt about as my firstborn, never crossed my mind, until the ultrasound appointment. When the technician announced in a singsong way that she didn’t “see anything down there!”…my motherhood with a girl began. And any calm I had went out the nearest window.

And I was scared! I wanted to ease into the scariness of parenting with a boy, and not a girl. I had seen girls as more fragile, harder to protect, and more of a safety liability. How could I keep my girl secure in a world that had been a scary place for me as a child and teen? I was one of the parents who I now regularly give safety skills to during Kidpower and Teenpower workshops. I was that mother who worried about the multitude of unanswered questions I had about how to teach my daughter to stay safe, not only in childhood but beyond and into adulthood.

But not anymore! Kidpower answers those questions and provides teachable, easy to remember skills for most any questionable or dangerous situation we parents dream up, witness on the news or hear about in social media. Kidpower makes safety doable; it takes the fear out of parenting by replacing it with safety skills that make sense and that work.

And now, as part of the Go Girls! organization my daughter is not only a Kidpower girl, but she also benefits from the compassion revolution that is Go Girls! My double-threat, safe, empowered daughter…for this I am so grateful! (And so much more calm!)

Ranging and Roaming

two young boys walking together down a path towards the setting sunOne of my favorite Facebook friends is a guy I went to grammar school with. Favorite because he’s a kind and sensitive soul, and favorite because he is one of the best “post-ers” I know. This is what caught my eye today:

“I shudder to think of what I would have missed were I not told to ‘go out and play’ and be back for dinner. How many fewer friends, interesting and caring adults, and even the random ‘job.’ I also learned how to read and handle people…It’s a sad thing to go through a residential neighborhood these days, with tricycles in the driveways but not a single kid in the street.”

Some parents have recently been arrested for letting their kids roam freely, or be “free-range,” as it has been termed. The only sort-of equivalent I can think of from my own childhood was being a latchkey kid. That meant I wore a key around my neck on a string. Both my parents worked, and I would be able to let myself into our apartment when they weren’t there. But that was not separate from roaming the neighborhood and the city. Roaming was a given. In fact, most of us felt a little sorry for the kids who were kept at home “for safety.” As if they were in prison, and missing out on all the life that was to be had outside: fort-building, hide-and-seek, riding the bus to see a double feature, roller-skating to a friends house, hiking to the creek, walking to buy an ice cream cone or check out books from the library.

We didn’t feel afraid, and the things we felt afraid about we knew how to handle, such as strangers offering candy or rides and crossing streets at crosswalks and with traffic signals. And we knew we could ask people for help if we needed. Doug is so right. Being out in the world taught us how to read people, it made us part of a wide community filled with all different kinds of people, it required that we learn first-hand how to navigate streets and situations. It was better than being coddled like infants, protected like precious objects. Being a citizen is what it meant, with agency and standing, and the means to travel.

Statistics seem to bear out that our communities are no more dangerous than they were 20, 30, or 40 years ago. And yet parents’ concern for their children’s safety has increased, along with a sense that children need scheduled, organized enrichment, in order to get ahead and experience a fulfilling childhood. Yet I wouldn’t trade my ability to walk by myself to Doug’s house for anything, when we were both 9 years old. The enrichment discovered in those several blocks was limitless, and I feel it still.

The Magical, Post-iPhone World

teens-on-cell-phones-300x225
So much fun to be had on those newfangled touchy blocks (my impression of someone who has never seen and iPhone before).

Interning with Go Girls! has been a blessing for me in a number of ways (working with an amazing company with a mission I stand behind firmly, endlessly supportive staff, being able to watch with company as it grows organically). But one benefit I overlooked was that it offered me a semester free of commuting into and out of Manhattan two or three days a week.

But this past weekend I decided to make use of public transportation to get from my university in Long Island to my house near Albany, NY. And while on trains and buses, I got to engage (a tiny bit) in the public transportation experience I used to love so much.

The best part, I think, is being able to watch families, couples, friends, and strangers interact. A person’s true colors are really exposed when they miss their connecting train or can’t get a seat next to a power outlet. But it makes you think about what things were like when we weren’t all connected to our phones and tablets. We couldn’t make quick business calls much to the despair of mothers with sleeping babies sitting two rows over. Our parents couldn’t check in every half hour to make sure things were going okay. Travel just happened, disjointed from the rest of the world, until you made it home and could get on your landline to check back in.

Last year at about this time, I had my phone stolen while eating at a cafe in Italy. I had never felt so panicked and violated in my life. I had to disconnect my cell service, and remotely lock phone, and I didn’t even know what to do after that. How would I begin to tell my parents that my passwords, my photos, and my main connection to the world at home were all in the hands of a toothless man trying to sell me a pair of pants?

The first "real" cell phone I ever had. I'm not even kidding.
The first “real” cell phone I ever had. I’m not even kidding.

But then being phone-less started to be kind of fun. I could still text my parents and friends from my computer if I needed to, and the world starts to look more beautiful when you don’t have a camera with you, but the disconnect from Facebook pings and Snapchat’s and the ability to mindlessly scroll through Twitter before class started to feel really freeing.

And I wish I could say that my experience changed everything about me and that I never use my phone anymore and that I replaced it with some old cell phone with a qwerty keyboard, but I am weak to innovation and things that allow me to pass the time while traveling.

But just remember that once, none of these apps existed. None of these websites existed. You called your friends on the phone, and sometimes left a message because your friend was not home and you couldn’t just check Find My Friends to see where they were. We’re living in the Wild West of technology development, so find a trusty steed, play it safe, and look up from your phone once in a while. It’s worth it.

 

Go Girls! Camp Testimonials: Azzia Walker

This guest post is written by Azzia Walker, a Go Girls! Advocate and Parent!

Group Shot March 2015 TestsI am a children’s aikido instructor at Aikido Shusekai in Berkeley. We train kids ages seven and up to be empowered, empathic, loving, disciplined warriors of peace. A special joy that we focus on is helping girls and women find their power and helping people in general transcend gender roles to find new creativity and ways of being and moving. As students deepen their practice , we work with them to set effective boundaries while maintaining their own sense of calm and center.

I first became aware of Go Girls! two years ago, as their Berkeley camp at JCC is only a few blocks from our home. My daughter was six that year, and it quickly became apparent that we were in the right place. Even at that young age, she was spirited, creative, loving, empathic, and empowered. We wanted a camp that would support and nurture these qualities, while giving her a chance to explore creative outlets, learn new skills, and make friends.

We got so much more than that. What particularly impressed me is how organized, competent, and loving the staff are. When emotional issues come up between campers, there is a process of working through it with a staff-member’s help. It includes art, talking, and resolution. That sort of work, turning conflict into grace through creativity and collaboration, is much like aikido. It is beautiful, sacred work.

The camp is full of good role models for our daughter, from the managers to the staff to the teens who assist. We would love for her to become a teen staffer, if she so chooses, down the line. Between summers we have a great time hearing our kid talk about “the media,” body image, and being strong and healthy. Looking forward to our third summer with Go Girls – this was the first and most important camp we booked!

Children Caring for Animals

unnamedI have almost always lived with animals—primarily cats, but dogs, too, and hamsters, gerbils, fish, birds, and a most social tortoise named Miss Speedy. During those times in my life when I didn’t live with an animal I was always planning about how I would get one. Early diagnoses of asthma and allergies were no deterrent. There is no question that I am a far happier person and a far better person loving and caring for an animal than I would be otherwise.

There is tons of evidence that children benefit from interacting with animals. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology writes on its website, “Positive relationships with pets can aid in the development of trusting relationships with others. A good relationship with a pet can also help in developing non-verbal communication, compassion, and empathy.”

A recent One Green Planet article focuses on some powerful women doing extraordinary work in the U.S. animal rescue and sanctuary movement. Ellie Laks, the founder of The Gentle Barn in Tarzana, CA, makes it part of her mission to teach children from all walks of life, socio-economic backgrounds, and children with differing physical abilities.

Hundreds of children have learned kindness and compassion through interacting with the animals there. To this end, she and her team have developed amazing programs to give these children opportunities to spend time with and care for a variety of animals at the Gentle Barn. This nurturing haven is the result of a dream Laks herself dreamed when she was just 7 years old.unnamed-3

Even if your family can’t house an animal in your home, your community provides many ways for children to care for, educate themselves about, and become empowered for our fellow creatures. Check out these tips from Natural Resources Defense Council. Call your local animal shelter and ask how kids can help the rescued animals there. Help your children learn how to responsibly pet-sit for neighbors. Google the day and summer camps offered by your local zoo. Check out books from the library on a wide variety of animals and their habitats. Make a point to research the particular wildlife living in the region where your family likes to camp or hike. The more children are offered such opportunities, the more their hearts expand. The knowledge they gain will keep them curious about, and invested in, the lives and environments of all of us who call this sweet old world Home.

Summer Camp is For Memories

IMG_1821Summer camp is a coming of age experience for kids all over the world. It’s in camp that many children have their first opportunity to discover their true identities outside of the expectations of their parents or teachers. Although I didn’t attend many camps when I was young, I did work in many programs for over a decade. The most satisfying part of my work was observing the transformation of the campers from their first nerve-filled day all the way through to the end of the summer where they’re exhibiting confidence that only comes from a deep level of comfort and relationship building.

As we inch closer to our summer season, and the start of Go Girls! Camp, I asked a few of my friends to share their favorite camp memories with me.

“When I was in a Girl Scout camp and we all got to stargaze with telescopes. So much fun! Also – another is when we created banners for each group with paint etc. and then we shared them together and voted for the best one.” –Tazim Damji   Being Tazim

“I remember shooting my very first arrow at summer camp. When we had the option to learn archery, I was so excited! It was something that I’d never thought I would learn, and at the ripe old age of 10, I ended up excelling at it! I’ll never forget that summer.” –Amiyrah Martin   4 Hats and Frugal

“My favorite camp memory is that we went to vacation Bible School each summer and made really cool arts and crafts projects.” –Janeane Davis   Janeane’s World

My mom forced me to go to camp one summer. I made up my mind to hate it. A group of girls I didn’t know, no electricity, food I wouldn’t like, OUTDOOR activities, the list could go on. I spent the first day ignoring everyone and pouting. One of the returning campers refused to let me be miserable. She made it her point to include me and make conversation even though I was being a brat. I broke at dinner when she made the most horrible joke you couldn’t help but laugh at. The rest is history – we became “camp sisters” and she remains one of my best friends to this day. Those two weeks ended up being the absolute best time ever and we cried like babies when it was time to go home.” –Michelle Garrett  Divas With A Purpose

I remember the summer between 8th grade and high school where I got to play a wicked step sister in an original Cinderella type story called “The Prince & I” It was awesome.” –Lynn Johnson Go Girls! Camp (Co-Founder) and Raising A Go Girl

I went to an outdoor sleep away camp for four years in a row. It was awesome! We would do arts and crafts out of natural materials, learn about the flora and fauna, hike, swim, play games and best of all… share skits around the campfire. I was known for my impressions. I loved performing with and for a close knit group of girls (you became bffs at camp), making them laugh, and feeling supported.” –Julie Douglas Go Girls! Camp (Teaching Artist)

What is your favorite summer camp memory? Share below in the comments!

“Strong is the New Pretty” Aims to Capture All It Means to Be a Girl

slide_343355_3563203_freeI can’t remember a time when I wasn’t self conscious about my weight, height, hair texture, bra size, sense of style, or any number of other things society decided was “right.” Things I didn’t have, or want, or couldn’t afford.

Photographer Kate T. Parker is attempting to capture all that is authentic about being a girl—not the pretty or delicate, but the strength and boldness that starts to dissolve as young girls grow older in a society that is so demanding of women to be a certain way.

Kate aimed to capture the childhood experiences of her daughters and their friends as authentically as possible: “I wanted this series of images to show their boldness, their strength and the beauty in them, as they are…You don’t need to be pretty, perfect or compliant to be loved.”slide_343355_3563201_free

This message is such an important one, and it aligns well with the Go Girls! message. You don’t have to be anything, which is increasingly more difficult to remember as you get older and the Internet is awash with style gurus, makeup artists, celebrities, and endless sources of inspiration (and people telling you who to be). It’s hard to keep track of who you actually are or want to be.

Check out Kate’s project here (which is beautiful) for a personal reminder why strong (or quiet, or bold, or goofy, or whatever else) really is the new pretty. 

Change the World, One Idea at a Time

imageOne of the most amazing things about the Internet is the ability we have to connect with people all over the world: to share stories, gather inspiration, and make a difference. There are articles and lists of influential women popping up every day, but even these inspiring stories can make us feel like our daily efforts are meaningless.

Being a young activist/feminist/Go Girl! isn’t always easy. Sometimes it’s hard to wrap your head around doing anything world-changing in between taking biology classes and studying for state exams. The influential women we’ve been celebrating this month are successful, revolutionary, and most of them are all grown up. 

And you may have these ideas for innovating your school’s lunch line system, supporting a local organization, or for setting up an adoption clinic for stray animals, but you feel like you’re too young, or that no one will take you seriously, or that you’re unprepared and stupid and the idea isn’t good enough and—

stop.

Take a breath, and start again. Because even one small step in the direction of your goals is so huge, especially if it feels tiny and unimportant. Just putting your ideas out into the world—no matter how fresh, or unfleshed, or far from the final plan they are—makes them real. It holds you accountable, even if your dog is the only one you’ve told. It creates momentum in the universe. It motivates you to build upon it, or to create something new. And most importantly, it challenges you.

So take the next step, even if you’re afraid of the feedback. Find the people who support your plans, can help you build upon them, and who will set your ideas in motion. You can be the next Emma Watson, Roxane GaySusan B. Anthony, or any form of influential you want to be!