11 April 2012

Being a girl has nothing to do with it

Trish Herr's then five year old daughter Alex wanted to hike all 48 of New Hampshire's 4,000+ foot mountains. Would you let your five year old do the same? Join From Left to Write on April 12 as we discuss Up: A Mother and Daughter’s Peakbagging Adventure. As a member of From Left to Write, I received a copy of the book. All opinions are my own.

Up A Mother and Daughter's Peakbagging Adventure by Patricia Ellis
I read Trish Herr's book, Up, and I have to admit, I'm impressed with her daughter.  It's not every 5 year old who understands and wants to undertake such an endeavor.  Actually, I'm impressed with both her daughters.  It's also not every 3 year old who would want to hike huge mountains.  

I have three children, for all of whom 5 and 3 are in the past, and I don't know if it would ever occur to them to want to hike 48 4000+ foot mountains, but in fairness, we live in the wide open spaces of Midwest USA.  Mountains are not exactly easily accessible for us.  And by that I mean, we'd have to drive for days or buy airline tickets to get to one, let alone 48 of them.  Would I let them do it?  Sure, if they wanted to. Would I let them when they were 5? Sure, if they wanted to. 

I love that Trish has instilled such a love and respect for the outdoors in her children, and I love that her daughters have learned that simply being a girl doesn't stop them from doing what they want to do, it's a matter of attitude.  Being a girl has nothing to do with it.  

I'm a female in a male-dominated world, the military.  I get it.  I've worked long hard hours to be considered as good as the guys.  What I've learned is this:  if I don't focus on the fact that I'm a woman in a man's world, then generally neither does anyone else. If I ask people to notice that I am a woman, they generally will.  I don't see myself as a female Airman, I'm an Airman. What matters is not what restroom I use; what matters is the effort I bring, and the end result of my work.  The men I work with don't say, "Hey, great job....for a girl," unless they're trying to get a rise out of me.  Which only works sometimes.  

My children are all boys.  God most definitely has a sense of humor, and He definitely knew what He was doing, giving me all boys.  They're growing up with a mother who wears a military uniform to work, and still drives them to school every day.  They're growing up with a mother who chaperones field trips and does room mom duties, and who can also beat them at HORSE, and will practice pitching and catching and batting with them.  Their mother kills bugs (even the big ones), bakes cookies, and runs the house while dad is away at work, which is often. Their mother does indeed wear combat boots.  

And I think they'll be better men for it.  They don't see me, a woman, as limited by my gender.   I have one foot in each world, the traditional and the not so traditional.  No one made me quit working full time and choose the part time Reserve route; I made that choice completely on my own.  No one made me continue to stay home when my youngest child went to all-day school; again, my choice. 

It seems to me that kids will always take their cues from their parents.  When they take a spill, they immediately look at Mom to see how bad it really is.  If Mom gasps, they start to cry.  I get to determine, to a significant extent, how my boys view the world and how it works.  I like to think I'm showing them an example of someone who makes their own choices while considering others who are affected by them, who places value on education and on service to others, and who is willing to put effort into making a family work.  Someone who acknowledges mistakes (most of the time) and is willing to try to learn from them (most of the time). Not a woman who does these things, just someone who does them.  

I'm not at all ashamed of being female or wish that I was not; I love being a wife and a mother.  It's my true vocation, above all else.  But I don't allow my gender to limit me, or define me.  

Being a girl has nothing to do it.