As the mother to two young daughters, I think a lot about the people they will turn into.
As parents, we work hard to make sure our children know the importance of being kind, thoughtful, generous and empathetic.
When I was 13, I stood up for a friend who was being “ousted” by our friend group for no reason that I can recall. The “group” wasn’t a fan of my stance and ultimately, I was the one being bullied and ended up standing on the outside looking in.
It hurt - a LOT - but even now, more than 25 years later, I am confident I did the right thing. I can’t even fathom how much worse that experience would have been if it happened today with cellphones, texting and whatever SnapTwitAGram apps are available to young people.
I worry for my girls as they get older. Knowing what I went through, I don’t ever want them to have to endure the kind of bullying and ostracization that I suffered through - or worse - be the ones putting another child through it.
With these concerns in mind, I try to make sure my kids know the importance of being kind to EVERYONE. To be inclusive to EVERYONE. To be generous to EVERYONE - regardless of them being your “BFF” or not.
My oldest was selected for a kindness award at the beginning of the school year, something which gives me a lot of hope that they won’t turn into the “mean girls” who made me feel so small and alone.
I also make sure they both have a variety of strong, female role models to look up to. From the teen who has been babysitting them for the last few years - a smart, active and creative young woman who I am almost certain they prefer over me - to all of their “aunties” who range from scientists and lawyers and tech wizards to successful entrepreneurs and stay-at-home moms.
We also read about inspiring role models including one of Canada’s most inspirational female athletes.
For Christmas last year, I bought my husband a set of kids books about hockey for our girls to give him. In that set, among the stories about Wayne Gretzky and Auston Matthews, was a book called Hayley’s Journey about the life and success of Canadian women’s hockey team alumni Hayley Wickenheiser - the longest serving member of Canada’s National Women’s Team.
Needless to say, my girls, especially my oldest, were particularly drawn to that book. It was one of the first books she really started to read by herself.
As much as she would ask if the girl in the book was a “real live person,” I don’t think it sunk in that the book was about someone real. That is, until a few weeks ago when during the Toronto Maple Leaf game, the camera zoomed in on the team’s senior director of player development. A lady by the name of Dr. Hayley Wickenheiser.
My husband and I paused it and called our daughter into the room, a challenging task as anyone with a nearly seven-year-old can attest. I asked her to sit down with me for a minute and look. Then we hit play.
When she heard the name she went absolutely still and she just gazed at the television with stars in her eyes. There, in her Disney Cinderella princess dress, she was still for the first time that day, just staring at this woman who had been inspiring her through the pages of a book for the last two years.
I snapped a photo of this miracle and posted it on Instagram. On a whim, I decided to send it to Wickenheiser’s “DMs” simply wanting to share this moment that she inspired. Never did I expect to open up my account the following day to see a private message from the hockey great herself which included a video she made for my daughter.
The next morning, when B woke up, I showed her the video - and I don’t think she has stopped smiling since. She asks to watch it nearly every day and has even decided that she now wants to learn to skate so that she can “tell Hayley” and so that Dr. Wickenheiser can one day read the book about her like she mentioned in the video message.
The fact that this incredible woman took the time out of what I can only imagine is an insanely busy schedule to sit down and speak directly to my child left me speechless. Seeing B’s reaction proves to me just how important it is for us as mothers, professionals and women, to provide our kids - especially our girls - with role models who will encourage and hold up not only our youth - but other women as well.