Creativity and optimism are all too quickly dismissed as being just the imagination of a child. But what lessons could be learned, and how would social stereotypes be altered if maybe we just stopped and paid attention to how our children view the world? Their viewpoints early on are pure, innocent and lack a certain level of intolerance that only main stream media will teach them.
As the father of a nine year old hockey hungry young girl, I occasionally and admittedly, lack the understanding of what motivates and inspires young women. However when I stop and observe, it is me who learns the biggest life lessons, and it can be done sometimes without words.
Standing in my living room and quickly scanning the area, my eyes come across my daughter’s hockey shrine; it is a mix of her own game pucks, pictures and odds and ends from her first four seasons of hockey. But it also contains a great deal of memories and autographs from Women’s Hockey Legends that she has met so early in her life. Canadian greats such as Cassie Campbell, Hayley Wickenheiser, Cheryl Pounder, and even the penmanship of Hockey Hall of Famer Angela James are all proudly displayed on a well-organized shelf. Yet it is the one deliberately displayed just off the main shelf and on a coffee table just to the left of her most recent team photo that catches my eye.
Presented just like any other family photo is an autographed Team Canada card of Becky Kellar that my daughter received after completing one of Becky’s hockey camps. The most remarkable part of the photo is that it is displayed in a Disney Princess picture frame. One might pass this off as coincidence or lack of other frames available, but that is not my daughter. It is through this that our hopes and dreams of equality can continue to bloom.
Just from the frame and the display it is obvious that my daughter views her heroes and icons completely different than the way I was raised. Her view of a Princess has been altered from the original images of a damsel in distress who requires the aide of a man to come to her rescue. Young women are grabbing hold of the idea that females are equally as strong inside and out, that they can control their own destiny through sheer perseverance and commitment. This is how a nine year old girl sees beauty, strength, and achievement.
There is no longer a need for Prince Charming to ride in to save the day; these girls are golden on their own. When in line for an autograph from Angela James HHOF, I overheard her say to Johnny Bower HHOF that the girls there were young and most likely did not know who she was. This could not be further from the truth. Today’s young female hockey player is educated and in complete awe of the pioneers before them. They are able to draw inspiration from all those who laced them up before them.
There is a new sense of empowerment in the young women of sport and that drive is coming from so many physically talented and mentally tough women who have blazed the trail. They are owed a debt of gratitude and their efforts are beginning to pay off for future generations.
Don’t get me wrong I am sure in everyday social situations these women of sport would rather not be referred to as ‘Princess’, however in the eyes of our future leaders, they invoke images of achievement, of greatness, of dedication and they reflect positive role models to the future athlete and the future strength of what has been far too often tagged ‘the weaker sex’.
Today’s Princess does not wear a tiara, and they don’t wait in the tower until the fighting stops, they wear helmets, or cleats, they fight off tennis balls or track down a fly ball. They ride into battle on skates and they engage in the fiercest of competition. I have no idea what the future holds for the proud women of sport, but as a father there is no way I will get between how my daughter sees the world and how she picks her heroes. Her reality and perception is far more advanced that the one I have always viewed and understood. From now on I am living in her world and it is inspiring.