We were playing at the park and Annie Rose noticed several little girls about her same age hanging off the monkey bars.
She stared at them, openly admiring their ability to hang and then drop, landing in a cloud of dust on the ground. I watched her watching them, knowing that she had not yet mastered the ability to hang from a bar without my reassuring arms around her waist.
"Come on, let's go try it," I urged her.
Together, we walked over to the little kids and I introduced Annie Rose. The girls spent a few minutes comparing ages (two five-year-olds and a four-year-old) and then they resumed taking turns on the monkey bars.
When it was Annie Rose's turn, I helped her across.
"I can do it myself," one of the little girls told us proudly. Not bragging. Not taunting. Simply stating with self-assured pride that she can do it herself.
"You sure can!" I told her. "I saw how awesome you were."
"I was," she giggled. "I was awesome."
Annie Rose felt duly inspired and decided to try the monkey bars without the Mommy safety-net. To her astonishment and delight, she hung for a minute independently before letting go and surviving the 18-inch drop to the dirt.
"I did it!" she hollered. "I did it!" she sang and chanted. She danced around the park singing at the top of her lungs, "I can do it! I can do it! Hooray for me!"
It was so charming, so utterly delightful to watch her revel in her accomplishment, that I grabbed my phone and asked her if I could take a video of her impromptu victory song.
I thought about how these days of healthy self-confidence are numbered. Particularly because Annie Rose is a girl, and much of our society dictates that girls who cheer "Hooray for me!" are too assertive, too stuck-up or too ambitious.
Society dictates that a male athlete can do a crazy, hilarious victory dance again and again after scoring a touchdown, and it is fine. But woe to the girl who openly displays too much pride in her accomplishments. She will be taken down a peg, as surely as the sun will rise.
Find me a middle-school girl who is allowed to celebrate herself, and I will find you a hundred peers of hers who are plotting to put her in her place for being "all that." Find me a teenage girl who dresses in a way that makes her feel good but that does not comply with the general attire of her peers, and I will show you a campaign to shame.
There is a narrow window where little girls are completely unaware of the pressure to be demure, modest and socially acceptable. Annie Rose is at the height of social obliviousness, and it is breathtakingly beautiful to witness her unfettered joy in her accomplishments.
Is there a way to push back against the rules? Who says a little girl should have to stop singing "Hurray for me"? Maybe the answer is to celebrate the song as much as the action that prompted it, in order to let our girls know they can feel good about their achievements. Maybe we can model it by telling our kids, "Hurray for mommy! I was working really hard at something and I got it done!"
Let's show our little girls that they can grow into big girls who are still allowed to celebrate their wins. Hurray for the gamers, the geek girls, the athletes, the artists, the lawyers and the doctors who were once little girls on the playground. Hurray for the mommies and the aunties and the grandmas and the nannies who help raise our families. Hurray for the hairdressers and the nurses, the teachers and the engineers, the dentists and the housekeepers, the business owners and the social workers, who all achieve wins as they live their daily lives.
Hurray for you, Annie Rose, as you spin towards success. May you remember this feeling, and find a way to shout it out even when the world tries to silence you.
Annie Rose singing "Hurray for me":
This story was first published on Carrie's blog, "Portrait of an Adoption", on June 20, 2012.
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