But I had an experience yesterday that gave me hope.
I enrolled both my kids in a skateboarding camp this week. My eight-year-old son is an avid skateboarder, so enrolling him was a no-brainer. My 11-year-old daughter was an avid skateboarder until last fall, when a boy on a BMX bike crashed into her at the skatepark, thus knocking over not only her petite body, but her burgeoning, skate-related, pre-teen self esteem. For ten months she said she didn’t like skateboarding anymore. After weeks of discussion, I convinced her to try a skateboarding camp, promising her that if she still didn’t like the sport by the end of the first week, she could skip the second week.
See, I wanted her to get her game back on, skateboarding-wise.
When I picked the kids up from the camp the first day, they were both glowing with excitement. When I picked them up the second day, my daughter asked if she could use the money she had saved up to buy a new deck (the actual board part of the skateboard). I said “absolutely” and we drove off to Berkeley, to check out the famous 510 Skateboarding shop on Telegraph Avenue.
Now, skateboarding is a kind of male-dominated sport. And sometimes those boys are just a little, um, rough. So I was hoping, hoping, hoping that 510 might have a female clerk to help my daughter choose her new board. Alas, when we walked in, there was just one young man — but boy, was he good.
After surveying the hundreds of boards available, my daughter chose one with a Koston Girl design on the bottom. Absolutely perfect for her. The next decision was whether the grip tape (the kind of sandpapery stuff that’s put on the top of the board for traction) should cover the whole board, or be cut so as to leave the word GIRL showing. My daughter looked up at me questioningly. I said, “it’s up to you — whatever you like.” She looked a little nervous, and then the salesman said the magic words:
“It’s all about what you think is tight. See, if you’re a skater, you can find your own look, your own style. You go with what feels right to you. It’s not about what other people think. It’s about what you think.”
I could have jumped up and down. I could have kissed him. I could have shouted, “thank you, thank you, oh gnarly skateboarding SIR!” But I did not…I did not because, well, it is not cool to display that kind of Mommy behavior in a skateboard shop. You can trust me on that one. Instead, I smiled encouragingly at my daughter, and said, “what do you think?”
She broke out into a wide grin and chose to let GIRL show. (Loved that!) And I was reminded that there are places in the world where girls are encouraged to excel, to find themselves, to assert themselves, and to grow into awesome, independent women. And sometimes those places are where you least expect them.