"In the whole wide world there's no magic place
So you might as well rise, put on your bravest face..."
–Rush, Bravest Face
We were at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, the MAH as it's known for short, making donuts with felt and hot glue guns (yes, donuts) during a fun arts and crafts event. Afterwards the girls wanted to see the rest of the museum, especially one specific thing on the 3rd floor – the foosball table. I'm not sure exactly why there's a foosball table on the 3rd floor, maybe to entertain children while their parents visit the exhibits, but it's their nonetheless.
This time though there were three boys playing foosball, maybe 10 to 12 years old. The girls wanted to wait, so we waited. And we waited. And we waited. Keep in mind that waiting from a child's perspective can be excruciating, and their quiet angst washed over us as well. Yet, it had only been a few minutes at the most.
We encouraged both girls to tell the boys they were waiting and wanted to be next. Of course, it was obvious we were waiting for the game, and I'm sure the boys got that. However, they continued to play away with raucous laughter.
Our youngest Bryce wasn't going to speak up, but Beatrice started to work up the courage; she told us that her and Bryce really wanted to play the game. We coached her (so did Bryce) and encouraged her, and minutes went by with the girls standing there waiting to play the game. But the boys weren't stopping anytime soon.
I had to walk away; it would've been too easy to speak up and "encourage" the boys to wrap it up for my girls. Intimidating children isn't a quality I want my children to see, so I wasn't going to do that. The Mama was patient too, continuing to coach Beatrice.
Finally, Beatrice worked up her nerve.
"How much longer are you going to play?" she asked the boys.
One of them answered, "Um...maybe another 15 minutes." And then they kept on playing without looking her.
Bea stood there and then looked back at the Mama. I was down the hall, pacing a little like an expectant father, and Bryce just sat on a bench waiting patiently (quite unlike her actually).
That's when the Mama spoke up, "Do you think 15 minutes is a fair amount of time if people are waiting?"
The boys paused their play, and then another said, "Okay, five minutes."
And then two minutes later they stopped their game and moved on.
We were so proud of Beatrice for speaking up and we let her know that. We expressed to both girls that it's okay to ask for what they want, to speak up and set boundaries and expectations when needed – coaching them to be more direct with their requests instead of open-ended questions. To be firm and persistent without being mean or rude, whether they're dealing with other boys or girls or both. But especially the boys. In the age of #metoo and #timesup, we want our girls to embody individuality and inclusivity while never allowing themselves to be compromised because their gender.
This will serve them well throughout their lifetimes, because boys and girls grow up to be men and women. And in adulthood, there is magical realm where we treat each other fairly with respect and support each other with understanding and empathy. Some of us work daily on getting there, while still too many others do not.
This is why we want them to be strong and independent, to believe in themselves, to empower others to do the same, and to be brave as needed.