I never really thought about being strong as I was growing up. I do remember thinking, when I was around six or seven-years-old, that my dad must have wanted me to be a boy. This was after we had been outside playing football in the snow with my cousin, Jamie. We played football and basketball throughout the year, no matter the temperature. My dad took me fishing and I baited my own hook (unless it was liver ’cause that’s just nasty) as well as removed my own fish. I took pride in being able to do it myself, just as I took pride in being able to throw a football in a perfect spiral. My dad didn’t want me to be a boy; it just didn’t occur to him that he should treat me any differently because I was a girl. He loved playing those sports, and thought I would too. And I did.
Most of the boys I grew up with never questioned that I would play football or fight back if they pulled my hair. I got into fights with more than one boy over pinching or hitting me. I even went into a screaming/punching fit once when I was 8 because this boy (four years older than me) knocked over my mud pies I had been working on. I bloodied his nose before he could get away from me.
The only time me being a girl was made a big deal of was when we went to play football at Jamie’s house. Boys from his neighborhood couldn’t believe he had a girl on his team. They even gave us the ball first saying, “We’ll go easy on you because you have a girl.” That was until I was quarterback and the guy who tried to intercept the ball hurt his hand on my pass. We won the game and I got respect.
Now, my mom didn’t play sports with us. She just didn’t enjoy it. She liked riding motorcycles, gardening, and fixed the plumbing around the house. She never wore dresses or much make-up. She didn’t cry easily, and there was never any doubt that she was strong. Not just strong, but TOUGH. She didn’t take crap from ANYONE (and still doesn’t). My mom taught me how to check my oil and change a tire because she didn’t want me sitting on the side of the road waiting for someone to do it for me. There was never any question of whether or not I would be strong; weakness was not an option.
My mom always told me, “You can do anything a boy can do. Don’t let someone else tell you what you can or can’t do,” which is a little ironic since she was bossing me around. She also said, “There’s no trying. You either do it or you don’t,” but I’m pretty sure she stole that one from Yoda. I don’t think there was ever anything that my mom couldn’t do.
Both my parents helped to make me the strong woman I am today. I had to overcome many obstacles on my own, but those things made me even stronger. I cry easily and wear my heart on my sleeve, but that doesn’t make me weak. I am opinionated, but I also know my thoughts and feelings matter. I will stand up for what I believe in. I will also fight for those I care about. My children hold my heart and for them, I’m even stronger.