Sometimes, Even a Fierce Feminist Needs a Day Off To Make A Friend


photo credit: ShellyS via photopin cc
photo credit: ShellyS via photopin cc

I should have hugged her tighter. I should have kissed her face and wiped away her tears.

I know this.

But those boys, they needed schoolin’.

I should have remembered that there will always be boys like that.

On some sunny Saturdays, or even cloudy Saturdays or Thursdays, even the mightiest little feminists can take a day off.

In some instances, it’s better to make a friend of the girl next to you than to teach a boy a lesson he’ll probably forget tomorrow.

###

If there’s a game, Grace wants in.

The state soccer association brought their show to Mint Hill, and invited kids of all ages to play small-sided games. Small-sided games are the essence of my teaching. They get kids out in small numbers on small fields working together to solve soccer problems.

Grace’s group included two girls, two small boys, and two mortal-enemy boys.

I remember these boys from my childhood. They – we – fought tooth-and-nail, lost sight of the fact that anyone else existed on the field, and tore at each other like two hungry allosaurs. All with bad attitudes, red faces and hair plastered to our faces.

These boys pushed and elbowed their way to every ball, fighting even over who got to throw the ball in after it sailed out of bounds.

The coaches looked away as the boys tussled, then barked instructions when the ball returned to play. Grace sized up her opportunity, and challenged one boy for the ball along the far sideline. Their kicks collided, and the ball shot upward between their faces.

Closer to Grace’s, apparently.

The ball struck her on the nose, and the boy peeled away with it. I watched Grace give a half-hearted pursuit. She blinked away tears, then stopped running to wipe them. Before I knew it, she was running off the field toward me, face in full cry.

I haven’t seen this side of her in a long time – not on a soccer field, anyway.

The kids turned to watch this new girl run to her daddy. The field coach – now suddenly invested in the action – peered at her behind reflective sunglasses, shook his head and grumbled, “play with whatcha got.”

To him, she was just another girl who couldn’t hack it.

As Grace leaned into me and wiped tears on my shoulder, I gently nudged her back out. My heart wanted to put this baby on my lap the rest of the day.

The part of me where the coach and feminist resides wanted her to go out and kick that boy’s ass – not in a Chuck Norris way, but in a Mia Hamm Nike commercial, “anything you can do I can do better” kind of way.

But she was having none of it, Grace.

The kids on the field went on watching the dueling boys fight for all of humanity, while the two small boys let grass and clouds and passersby distract them. The other little girl, now wholeheartedly uninterested in the game around her, kept peeking behind her shoulder at Grace and me.

Tears dried and pride restored, Grace wiped her face and returned to the field.

She stood alongside the other girl and they watched the sweaty boys tear at each other while no coaches noticed. They watched the wayward shots on goal bounce out of bounds again and again, giggled when the boys slid at each other’s feet and bickered about the insignificant score.

And just like that, it was over.

Grace and the girl walked side by side, smiling and laughing, off the field. The posed for pictures with the state soccer banner, turned in their practice vests, and couldn’t get out of the cleats and shin guards fast enough. Soccer gear abandoned on the ground, they turned cartwheels and ran off together to play anything but soccer.

Was this a blow to the work of Abigail Adams, this apparent succession of power by Grace, the ponytailed proliferator of girl power?

Would Catharina Ahlgren write with dismay the tale of the day the girl gave up?

Would English physician and feminist Elizabeth Garrett Anderson consider this a lost day?

###

I should have hugged Grace harder, wiped away her tears, maybe even walked away with her, practice vest left on the bench. Not every field is a battleground. Not every sweaty-headed boy an infidel. Not every clash of gender a Hamburger Hill in need of capture.

Some sunny Saturdays, or sunny Thursdays or even a cloudy one, a girl, no matter how much girl power she packs, just needs a hug and a kiss from dad, a few tears sopped up on his shirt, and a new friend made.

Even Lovisa Ahrburg took a day off from the cause and made a friend, I can only imagine.

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17 thoughts on “Sometimes, Even a Fierce Feminist Needs a Day Off To Make A Friend

  1. I can relate to this so much. It’s hard to remember, when it feels like so much of the world out there is a battlefield and a place to make yourself known, that it’s all about being able to make our own choices, to show our emotions without fear, to engage in the world in the way we want to. I say, it worked out just fine and all the great mothers of the revolution would love that she was out there at all, and that her father was there, letting her be who she was 🙂

    1. I figured you would, Becca! She doesn’t always have to be a soldier for her gender – sometimes, she can let the sweaty boys have at it and take time out to make a friend and run barefoot. I suspect those great mothers of the revolution could definitely have related, too.

  2. Part of fighting the good fight is choosing our battles wisely and knowing when to go to battle versus knowing when to save our strength – or not even bothering to expend any. I’m guessing Grace knew she might be better off channeling her ponytail power elsewhere versus expend all of her good stuff to show up those sweaty boyasauruses. Grace knew what she needed. Changing the world often begins with a few cartwheels and making a new friend. I bet Abigail Adams could vouch for that. A supportive father standing on the sidelines doesn’t hurt either.

  3. Sheer humanity. Often falling into the arms of those that keep us safe, lingering on the sidelines of the battleground that goes on… and in due time, we take the plunge again with new hope and perhaps a new friend to dance with and embrace anew. Beautifully written. I love that Grace… she is all of us.

  4. Sounds to me that Grace realized that was not a fight worth fighting. Sometimes it’s best to stop and cry. Take the high road and not engage those who aren’t worth engaging. Even strong feminists need a hug from dad and a good cry!

    1. And she was right – but all I saw was a dragon that needed slaying! She taught me something that day. Sometimes the dragon isn’t worth the sword slice. She’ll get that hug and kiss from me every single time. Tighter hugs and more kisses next time.

  5. She is a brave girl to go to her dad when she needed him, and then go back out there and give it another try. I can’t say I would be brave enough to do the same in her position, especially when I was younger!

    1. Remember when they’re really little, and they go on a playdate, and can stray from you, but will come back periodically to tell you something and hug you? It’s not so different when they’re 8, 12 or 15, even.

      I do admire her courage, that’s for sure.

  6. If Grace remembers anything about this day, I am betting it will be that you hugged her, wiped her tears, and she made a new friend. Somehow the negative doesn’t hold as much power when you have solid support behind you.

    This post hits close to home. Two of my grandchildren play soccer. The boy isn’t nearly the player his twin sister is, but they both have fun, and the coach maintains order. I admire anyone who can manage a bunch of 7 and 8 year olds! 🙂

    1. I hope so. I watched another game recently in which a girl botched a corner kick, then turned to her dad, who just looked down and shook his head in disgust. I will NEVER do that.

      If they’re both having fun, that’s the key. We always try to win every game, and losing bothers us, but if we’re not teaching the kids skills and teamwork and allowing them to foster a love for the game, we’re losing.

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