Tell Kids They Can

27 08 2008

You can learn a lot in convenience stores if you listen. Yes, I’m a notorious eavesdropper who likes to hear what folks have to say.

A couple of days ago, I heard a woman talking to a cashier who she probably knew (it’s Hoots) and they were talking about the woman’s husband telling their child some things that obviously disturbed her. I was waiting patiently behind her ready to buy a Monster as I like them and began my secret hobby of eavesdropping.

“She told “insert name I’ve forgotten here” that she wasn’t coloring inside the lines and that she can’t do that,” she said talking about a coloring book I’m assuming. “I told her what she had done was fine. She didn’t have to color inside the lines. I was really mad at him. When he said ‘you can’t’ her eyes just welled up. Why does he have to be so strict about things?”

The cashier nodded and said “Sometimes men don’t get it.”

So I piped in and said because I’m that way, “Every time anyone, male or female because it’s not that at all, says you can’t to your daughter, tell her she can.”

They looked at me like I had just poured gasoline on myself and was fixing to light a cigarette.

The young mother said after an awkward pause, “That’s a good idea” and the cashier just nodded.

She paid for her purchases and moved to the side where I bought my Monster and began to stagger out the door (remember, walking pneumonia girl here who didn’t know she had that at this point.)

As I was leaving, the cashier whispered “she’s that newspaper lady.”

The young mother said something but I didn’t hear it as the door shut.

I shouldn’t have piped in, but for everyone, male or female, that is told they can’t needs to know that they can.

For every time I’ve been told that I couldn’t by people I felt were in authority (parents, teachers, mentors) I felt that sting that others didn’t feel I was capable of being involved or handling a situation. We are human, we crash and burn sometimes and other times we succeed.

Yet, if we are told we can’t or we are doing it wrong, then why even try?

I have two nieces. I try to tell them they can do or be anything they want to be even if I don’t agree with it. Even if I know they are going to fail.

Because, like in the picture below, sometimes beautiful and bizarre things come from letting children’s imagination take over.

If you tell someone they can’t, then they won’t.

Same things go in business. If you treat your employees as disobedient children, then you lose them. If you treat your friends this way, you lose them.

I’m not a parent. I’m an aunt. I want the nieces to know that they, indeed, can. I want them to have the tools to know that if they want something or they build something, they need to try. They may fail, but those are life’s lessons.

The picture was taken at a local park last week. It made me laugh when the boy who built it said, “Do you like Happy Cow?”

I told him I did.

“Want me to build another one?” he asked.

I said yes.

He smiled walking away, arranging his toy with fantastic things only he could see.

Tell kids they can.

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7 responses

27 08 2008
lcreekmo

This is such important advice. Attention, world, listen up!

27 08 2008
grandefille

Yes. Ye cats, yes.

I had a similar conversation with my mother the other day after she started to tell Baby Fishmouth that “girls can’t … [insert something like climb trees, play drums, etc.]” If ANYBODY should know girls can do whatever they damn well please, it’s my mom. But that dang ’50s Southern upbringing that grabs her ’round the throat sometimes, I guess.

Yes we can. All of us. Boys and girls together. Baby Fishmouth and her best friend Frasier and your nieces and the Obama girls and all the kids can do anything, as long as we give them the freedom and the power to believe they can.

And as for you, “that newspaper lady” (probably said in the same hushed tone as “that crazy cat lady,” wasn’t it), rock on wit yo bad self. And feel better.

27 08 2008
grandefille

P.S. — Tell Happy Cow Boy that if we’d gone into Iraq and Afghanistan with something like that, winning the hearts and minds of the people would have been no problem whatsoever. “THUNDER LIZARDS ATTACK! But first, a cow.”

I’m gonna send that photo to my cousin, who’s tracking back and forth between Baghdad and Kurachi (actual city names redacted) with the soon-to-be-renamed Happy Cow Brigade.

27 08 2008
Beth

this is a wonderful post and so true.

I often say that the greatest gift my parents ever gave me was they never told me I couldn’t do something because I was female. I grew up in a neighborhood full of boys and learned to climb a tree and hang in there with the best of them.

And now that I’m older, it never occurs to me that I can’t do things. I just do those things – maybe with some sort of blind stupidity re: how the world works – and go on with it.

I never realized the gift I’d been given until college, when so many females my age limited themselves in their abilities or actions because they were told “you can’t”

Now that my friends are having children, to the ones that have girls, I pass on the words of wisdom, to pass on the great gift I was given… to never limit their dreams.

27 08 2008
jagosaurus

You’re gonna make me cry, dammit.

27 08 2008
heartbreaktown

That was beautiful. xoxox

27 08 2008
holly

Seconding everyone above.

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