Am I just hanging onto my old hang ups and perceptions which no longer apply? I ran my first race before Title IX and I was the only girl racing that day. Maybe it's time to just let this go.
Then there's the more troubling question of whether it's even good for me to encourage my daughter to run? Shouldn't I allow her to find her own way, her own passions, on her own? Am I actually hurting her by running with her?
Well, I don't think we are anywhere near where we want to be, nor do I think encouraging my daughter to run with me is somehow setting her up for trouble to come.
So, to the question: Haven't we achieved what we set out to do 40 years ago? I will answer, NO. Girls are still statistically less active than boys. The Women's Sports Foundation reports that by the age of 14 girls begin dropping out of sports at twice the rate of boys.
Last year I wrote:
"In a recent Christian Science Monitor article, Little girls or little women: The Disney princess effect , Stephanie Hanes notes that: "Girls are participating in sports at a much increased level in grade school," says Sharon Lamb , a professor of education and mental health at the University of Massachusetts, Boston . But, she adds, they start to drop out of sports at the middle school level when they start to believe that sports are unfeminine and unsexy.We seem to be loosing ground on this, and that may be because we think that there isn't a problem. While we have come a long way since 1972, we still have a long way to go. And certainly the national obesity stats do not point to an active and healthy culture!
A couple weeks ago Athleta published the piece "Five Reasons to Run with Your Daughter"( http://www.athleta.net/2012/09/14/five-reasons-to-run-with-your-daughter/ ). This article sparked a bit of a debate between me and Dawn Coccone, author of " Week Ahead is National Take Your Daughter Running Ray, October 1, 2012" ( http://www.examiner.com/article/week-ahead-is-national-take-your-daughter-running-day-september-30-2012 Ms. Coccone states:
"While it is honorable and timely to for Athleta to post this article, I think you need to be aware that as attractive as the idea of running with daughter is, it might be idealistic to think she will embrace it as you do. If your daughter is already into running or asks you to train her that is a wonderful opportunity, but recall when you were young…you wanted the opportunity to embrace your own passions."Running with my daughter is no way saying to her that she must "embrace it as [I] do"! Whether we like it or not we can not help but make statements with how we choose to live. My daughter sees me run, she knows when I'm off racing, she knows I coach others to run - she knows that it matters to ME. But she also knows that SHE matters more than anything else to me. She knows that I will support her passions, but she also knows that I want her to have passions. I am who I am. She is who she is. As a parent, one of my roles is to make her aware of the options out there, to expose her to different things and let her decide what she really cares about.
When I was young I wanted to find my own passions, but those are never found in a vacuum - those are discovered through the examples we have around us. We learn from those around us and the example they set may be positive or negative. I hope to be an example for my daughter, which is very different from pressuring her to please mommy - to do what mommy does, or else...
I was so fortunate to have parents who took me and my sister to races. They didn't force us to run. They opened the door and WE walked through on our own. I'm still running. My sister is not. Two different people. Two different paths.
There is a BIG difference between encouragement and pressure - and the argument that one necessarily leads to the other is a fallacious slippery slope argument. The first does not necessarily lead to slipping down that precipitous slope. And the fact remains, that our girls are constantly barraged with messages pressuring them to conform to a feminine stereotype. They feel pressure from their friends, from pop culture, the media, etc. and to argue that parents should be careful not to impress upon their children the passion that they embrace seems wrongheaded. I'm not just sending my child out into the world to flit around like a leaf in a breeze. I am here to help direct her to find her way, to instill values, and clear thinking. I like to read. I read to my daughter a lot. I value intellectual curiosity. Does that mean that she is going to be an uptight overachieving student? A perfectionist trying to please mommy? I don't know. But this is the best I can do.
So this coming Monday, run with your daughter - to school, around the block, down to the playground, up a hill, where ever. Share your passion. Share your time with her. Let her feel the power of her legs, and her heart and the joy of moving through space, side by side.
Some stats on girls and sports http://www.girlscouts.org/research/facts_findings/sports_and_physical_activity.asp