Girlhood

Today, I substitute-taught a class of twenty second-graders and it was one of the most chaotic environments I’ve ever had the opportunity to be a part of. If you didn’t already know, sometimes second-graders turn into little terrorists when fresh sub meat walks into the room–I’m fresh sub meat. So needless to say, it was a rough day.

But there were moments. Moments that made me feel like in the end, maybe the day wasn’t just a mess–it was a beautiful mess.

In the morning, there was a little girl who asked if she could be my helper. I was in no place to refuse any help with twenty tiny terrorists on the loose–I said, yes.

I could tell that this girl wasn’t miss goody two shoes, but that she wasn’t the conniving leader of the gang either. She struggled to focus at times, staring off into space or complaining that her back hurt, stacking three chairs together to make herself a throne, or getting up out of her seat when she wasn’t supposed to.

But she was my helper, so she helped how she could.

And on the way back from the library, this little girl decided to hold my hand. I don’t know why. She just did.

And when the little girls following us made fun of her for holding the substitute’s hand, she held on. Her grip didn’t loosen one bit. I don’t know why. She just did.

After recess, she came back with some stickers on her body, courtesy of one of the Dons of the Mafia. Without asking she took one off and stuck it on my hand. It said, Power. I don’t know why. She just did.

And I don’t know what it was, but in that moment, I felt like this little girl was everything a little girl should be. She wasn’t perfect, but she had a good heart. She embraced who she was and what it meant to be a second grader to her. She didn’t care what the other little girls thought she should do or be. She gave. She laughed. She expressed her feelings. This little girl shared the power of girlhood.

And I know that someday, she’ll be one of those women who knows that her journey as a woman is unique and that she need not conform to anyone else’s expectations of what a woman is and can be. She’ll be one of those women who knows the power she holds and who doesn’t shy away from her femininity. She’ll be one of those women who changes the world with her vulnerability and strength, with her willingness to try and fail before she eventually succeeds.

This is my hope for her, this precious little eight-year-old girl, and for every woman who is redefining themselves by the light of truth and not the darkness of social construct. Whether you believe that you were created in the image of God or that your incredibly beautiful and complicated self came about some other way, Happy International Women’s Day! You are braver than you believe, stronger than you think, and loved more than you could possibly know.

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I couldn’t take a picture of my second-grade friend, so here’s a picture of my second-grade sister because she’s cute and strong too.

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