The Olympics may be over, but I find myself still thinking about them a lot. Not just because I enjoyed following the trials and tribulations of Canada’s incredible athletes, but also because of my daughter.
My daughter is 6. To me, 6 is that magical age between infancy and childhood that seems so young and so old all at once. And she is exactly that.
She’s small enough to curl up on my lap when she wants to. And big enough to observe everything around her and ask thought-provoking questions about it all. Lots and lots of thought-provoking questions.
As I type these words – mere days before International Women’s Day – an image has appeared on my computer screen behind them: A pop-up advertisement for a line of clothing. I see a heavily made-up woman in a small, black leather dress. Thin arms, protruding bones, thighs that don’t even come close to touching each other.
If my daughter were standing behind me right now, this woman in the ad would be hard to miss. My observant 6-year-old might say something about her, or she might not. But I know she would see her all the same.
In contrast, I think of the Olympic athletes she has seen on my computer screen as I’ve written the daily Active for Life Sochi updates for kids and on our borrowed television screen as we’ve cuddled together to watch key events.
Annoyingly catchy jingles for cookies, fast-food restaurants, and soft drinks aside, I am eternally grateful to the Olympics for showing my daughter another kind of woman. Strong, confident, athletic, and brave, Canadian female athletes give her representations of women that she can feel good about admiring.
Like Kaillie Humphries and Hayley Wickenheiser. Like Jennifer Jones and Marielle Thompson. Like Tessa Virtue and the Dufour-Lapointe sisters. Like Dominique Maltais and Marie-Philip Poulin. These inspiring women who were responsible for half of Canada’s medals show children that being feminine and being strong, healthy, passionate, and athletic are not mutually exclusive, which is a message they rarely see in the media.
Suddenly my daughter wants to learn how to ski. Suddenly a morning snowshoe walk through a nearby golf course is an opportunity for athletic adventure. Suddenly this little girl has big dreams of climbing mountains, scoring overtime goals, and sledding head-first down giant hills.
As my daughter and older son sat at the table eating dinner the other night, they were talking about a certain, plastic female character in a show they’d watched over the weekend. This particular character they spoke of is about as iconic as they come. She’s 55 years old, hasn’t a wrinkle in sight, and many a little girl over many a decade has wanted to (disproportionately) grow up to be just like her.
I turned to my daughter and asked her this question: When you grow up, would you rather be like her, or like an Olympic athlete? That little 6-year-old girl sitting next to me just laughed. Then said with confidence (and disbelief, frankly, that I could even ask such a ridiculous question), “Like an athlete, of course. She’s just a silly person who doesn’t do anything.”
That simple answer is exactly why I will be watching the Olympics every two years with my kids until forever. Because I can’t think of better role-models for my daughter than these inspiring women who follow their dreams, who train hard, and who give everything they have to make their visions a reality.
I’m so glad my daughter agrees.
Image of Dominique Maltais © Canada~Snowboard