After 32 years, I finally went to camp.
I’d never been before. Not once. Not as a child. Not even with church groups.
Then eight middle school girls captured my heart and dragged me to the dustiest, filthiest, coldest-food-you’d-ever-eaten, camp in southern California. Well maybe I’m exaggerating a bit about the conditions...but not by much.
When we arrived, and I saw the bunk beds and showers one doesn’t survive without shower shoes, I’d thought I’d be writing about my experiences. The moments I had with these kids - fifty 7th and 8th graders went, not just my eight girls. I’d thought I’d want to tell you about the quiet moments I had out in the wilderness and the clarity I found there.
But now all I really want talk about are the girls.
A lot of people don’t like 13-year old girls. They’re stereotyped in our world as hormonal, emotional, and bratty. They’re assumed to be too cool for school, and their bad days are called “attitude”.
13-year old boys don’t get this so much. They get the eye rolls sure, but they’re treated like it’s perfectly natural for their hormones to go crazy and their attitudes to kick in. They’re not annoying...they’re just being “boys”. Even if half of them decide to prank the camp by peeing on the giant slide. (And that’s another story…)
Yet, I look at these girls and I see some of the kindest people I’ve ever met.
When I look at tears, I see their amazing strength to be vulnerable. When drama arises, I don’t see sides, I see loyalty for their friends. When they shout orders during camp games, I don’t hear bossiness, I hear a leader.
Sadly though, I also see my girls already starting to pull back, to make themselves a little smaller. I’m watching their desire to be liked, trump their desire to succeed.
And I don’t know how to make it stop. I don’t know how to tell them they matter. I don’t know how to let them know they’ve got so much more to offer this world than being “sweet”. I don’t know how to tell them to live big and loud in a world that tells them doing so makes them come across as obnoxious, bratty, and a mean girl.
I don’t know how to help them take on the world when the voice telling them to be nice girls still plagues my own thoughts.
But I do know it’s an amazing time to be a girl. I do know opportunities are opening for them, not available just a decade ago. I’m talking to you church. I do know I will tell them they are smart, more than I will tell them they are pretty. I will tell them they are funny, more than I will tell them they are sweet. I will tell them there’s a plan for them no boy can bring down.
And I will tell them I’ve got their back...no matter what.
Because that’s the power of woman. To see the future in 13-year old girls. And it’s bright.