“It’s hard being a girl. There are a lot of body image issues that come up and I think the best thing we can do for our kids is lead by example.”
– Cheryl Hines
Some of you may remember me mentioning a while back that I am now helping coach a new Girls on the Run team in our area. If you’re not familiar with Girls on the Run, we are basically what the name implies…girls on the run! We have a team of 3rd – 5th grade girls and we meet twice a week…not only to run, but also to talk about the qualities and values we need to have to be the best ladies we can be out here in this big ole world. And believe me, I’m learning just as much as the girls are. No doubt about it.
Which brings me to the topic of today’s blog.
One of the things the other two coaches and I have discussed is the importance of participating in both the physical activities (running, warmups, etc.) and the mental activities (lessons about our character, etc.) right along with the girls. It’s one thing to tell people what they should do, but it becomes a whole different lesson when you show them. It means more. For instance, if we expect the girls to do 20 laps, then we get out there and do 20 laps with them. If we are teaching a lesson about the importance of not gossiping, we have to make sure we don’t find ourselves in situations where we, as adults, are doing just that. You catch my drift?
We have to not only lead these girls, but lead them by example.
Now, I thought I was doing a pretty job of this whole concept. I mean, after all, I’m currently training for a marathon…surely I’m leading by example as far as running is concerned, right? And when we have our lessons about character traits, I’ve been willing to share personal info from my own life (including the parts I admittedly need to work on myself…I mean, who knew that listening was actually a part of the process when I’m arguing with my fiancé, Richard? Hey…you learn something new every day, right?) But earlier this week, something caught me slightly off guard. My “lead by example” strategy got challenged.
One of our girls was talking to me during our laps, and she mentioned how much trouble she has with her “crazy hair.” Now, this wasn’t the first time this girl has mentioned her hair, so I know it is somewhat of a sore spot with her. Like me, she has been “blessed” with a head full of curly hair. And, as we all know, the straight-haired girls want the curls and the curly-haired girls want to give them to them. I understood this girl’s dilemma quite well. Taming the mane does not come easy.
So, we had a conversation that went a little something like this:
Her: I have so much trouble with my crazy hair!
Me: Why do you call it crazy hair? You have great hair!
Her: You don’t understand. It’s curly and frizzy and everywhere all the time.
Me: Oh, I definitely understand, silly. Mine is exactly the same.
Her: *quizzical look* No, it’s not.
Me: Well, sure it is.
Her: I can’t tell. You always wear it back.
And here’s where I had to actually stop myself from saying what was on the tip of my tongue. Because you know what almost came out? What almost spilled out of my face was, “Well, that’s because my hair is horrible and I can’t do anything with it.”
Didn’t I just finish telling her that we had the same hair? If I said that, what would I be telling her about her own hair?
I can’t remember exactly how I finished the conversation. I think I told her something about how as you get older, you find more ways to fix your hair and different products that make you learn to like it better, etc. Which is true. But you know what I usually do with my crazy curls? Straighten them. And when I don’t have time for that, I pile them in a ponytail or in a bun. I hide them.
Here’s where I need to learn to lead by example.
If I tell this little girl to embrace her curls and learn to love them…all while mine are hidden from view, is she going to hear me? Is she going to learn to accept herself for who she is and not try to “fix” what she perceives as an error to make herself more “acceptable” to her peers? *sigh* I’m guessing not.
Time to lead by example.
So, today, my crazy curls are flapping around for all the world to see. When I get to practice in a few hours, that little girl is going to see that she and her coach have a little something in common…curly, “crazy” hair that we are learning to accept and appreciate. Together, we are going to show each other that this thing that makes us unique, somehow also makes us the same. And we are going to learn to be proud of that fact…not try to hide it.
So, thank you my little Girls on the Run student for showing this old gal a little thing or two.
Are you leading by example in your life? Something to think about, isn’t it? The little people are watching…don’t forget that.
“An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.”
– Mahatma Gandhi