March is Women’s History Month, a time for us to learn about, honor, and celebrate the contributions of women in history and contemporary society.
Our children learn about such influential women as Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks, Amelia Earhart, and Marie Curie. They learn how women like Billie Jean King, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Althea Gibson, and Katherine Switzer broke barriers in sports and blazed the trail for Title IX. They are surrounded by pop culture icons whom they aspire to be: Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Misty Copeland, and Selena Gomez.
I think it’s important to teach children about history’s trailblazers. It’s important to learn that great success isn’t gained easily; that it takes courage, conviction, and dedication. Likewise, I think it’s important to note that women are still blazing trails, fighting for equality and respect and accomplishing amazing things.
But sometimes I think these women in history books and on television are untouchable and unreal. In addition to these amazing women, our children need role models from their everyday lives who do everyday things with courage, compassion, heart and humor. If we just stop to look around, they are everywhere.
Mothers/Grandmothers/Sisters/Aunts/Cousins: Undoubtedly, the best lessons that we can learn about the world come from our own families. Strength, patience, love, forgiveness, drive, and compassion take a center stage in our daily lives. I think about my grandmother who lived in a small town and frequently had children stopping by to talk, listen to her sing and play piano, or partake in one of her yummy baked treats. Her home was always open.
I think about my friend who is running her first half marathon. Training has been hard for her, but she is not giving up. She set a goal and is determined to make it. I think about her son and daughter who have this strong woman to look up to, a woman who makes a plan – not excuses – and sticks to it.
I think about my own mother who is ten times a better mom than I. When I am being hard on my sons for not doing something better, I think about all of my quirkiness growing up and how she never made me feel like I was “doing it wrong.”
Teachers and nurses: My autistic son had a teacher last year who totally understood him. He was the teacher of his favorite subject, social studies. She let him talk and share his knowledge with the class. She even let him teach class one day. It was not a break for her, but a lesson for him.
I think about a teacher assistant at my sons’ school who is battling cancer. Never one to be without a smile on her face, she is still working through chemotherapy and hair loss. She went without a hat on Crazy Hat Day just to show everyone that she hasn’t lost her sense of humor. She exemplifies bravery in the most fun way.
I think about the face of every single nurse who ever took care of one of my sons, whether it was in the NICU, the ER, the cancer ward, or in general surgery. Someday my sons will look back and realize how amazing these women were who did their jobs with love, patience, and tenderness, even when it was hard because the six-year-old boy was dying of cancer or the baby was born with a disfiguring birth defect or the child was crying and kicking.
Church and community members: I think about our favorite librarian who used to facilitate story time. She kept reading in funny voices even through crying babies, wandering toddlers, and whiney preschoolers. She is at the library closest to us now, and she spent half an hour patiently pulling books off the shelf for my surly ten-year-old who didn’t think any was quite right for him. She didn’t give up until he had two books in his hand that he was excited to read.
I think about our own Ashli Brehm, battling cancer while inspiring thousands of people in her hometown, her church, and online. No one has to share the hard stuff, but sharing it helps others who don’t have the option to share.
It would be incredible if some of these ordinary everyday women who do ordinary everyday things with grace and courage could make the history books. The fact is that they are already making history by being real role models for real children. They are flesh and blood reminders of how to live life every day, inspiring our children without even trying.
Which women have inspired you? What qualities do you want your children to emulate?