Raising Strong Girls

Galit Breen Girls

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“What did he say?” I ask over muffled laughter and loud whispers.

We sit shoulder to shoulder in a row, mothers in varying shades of yoga pants and jeans, sneakers and high-heeled boots, edging this large room, facing our children.

I’m at Brody’s gymnastics class, watching him across padded mats in the brightest shades of blue and tall bars that glint beneath florescent lights.

These scare him because they’re so high, too high. But right next to them is the ever enticing trampoline, a perfect space to soar, and to hold someone’s hand if the landing seems too far.

I zoom in on my guy.

He stands by his coach, their fingers threaded. Brody’s shock of blond hair is mirrored on the coach’s other side by a little girl with equally bright curls pulled back with tiny pink plastic barrettes.

“What did he say?” I ask again, my voice unsure.

“He said he doesn’t want to race against a girl.” The mother by my side answers, smiling, not unkindly.


I peek at him through the rearview mirror. The sun reflects his hair, his eyes, the silver buckle.

Someone once told me that boys connect better in motion—immersed in an activity, running, walking—so I wait until we’re on the road to speak.

Oh, a Mothering Talk. The beautiful, bothersome ribbon I’m starting to curl around our relationship.

“Brods, why didn’t you want to race against that girl?”

I meet his eyes. They’re hazel and wide and rimmed in the longest lashes I’ve ever kissed.

“Because I wanted to win.” His little voice carries between us.

Of course that’s why. A boy with two older sisters whose legs are faster and arms are stronger and years are longer, would think he’d lose playing against a girl.

My assumptions about how girls are viewed, are all on me.

Not on him.

Because the beauty of youth is that they’ve yet to carry our baggage.


A week later, we’re back beneath those bright lights.

He threads his fingers with mine. They’re small and warm and fit just right. I squeeze him once to say, I love you, twice to say, You can do it, and three times to say, Always hold my hand.

We face the girl with the blond ringlets; her barrettes are blue today. She sits on her mother’s lap, their matching hair blends against their shoulders.

Brody is hidden, wrapped around my leg. I feel his weight against me.

“Hi honey.” I smooth his road. “Brody wants to talk to you.” I nudge him forward.

“I’m sorry,” He starts. “That I said I didn’t want to race you.”

When I think of strong women—the kind that I want my daughters and my son to mirror and know—my HeartMind whisks faces of women I admire. I’m lucky to say there are many.

My grandmother, a Holocaust survivor. My aunt, a breast cancer victim. My mother, an Israeli emigre who changed careers and language and culture and community with grace.

But that’s not who I’m thinking about today.

Tomorrow’s strong woman is my daughter and yours, the girl in your classroom or your soccer team. The one who wins races and doesn’t see the wow in this because it’s just who she is.

Our job in this is a braided trifecta.

The first strand lies in raising these girls to keep seeing themselves the way that Brody does.




The second is to raise our boys to keep Seeing them in the exact same way.

And the third, is to get our own perceptions out of their way.

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Galit Breen

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