Certain animal species experience a phenomenon called imprinting; for example, upon coming out of their eggs, ducklings will follow and become attached to the first moving object that they encounter. Imprinting is a powerful combination of instinctive behavior and environmental influences. In humans, psychologists refer to this as bonding.
In common every day experiences, you will recognize this as, “He runs just like you!” or “She sounds just like you!” As the saying goes, children are a reflection of… you. I remember when my son was about 2 and a half and we were pulling into the parking lot at the Botanical Garden. The security guard waved us off and told us we had to back out and enter through the other gate. My husband sighed heavily and muttered something under his breath. I rolled my eyes. My son, this cherub with blond hair and heavenly blue eyes donning a very loud Hawaiian short sleeved shirt, without hesitation, chimed in. “Asshole!” My child was reflection of his parents.
Fast forward nine years and I am walking my daughter to hockey practice. She plays hockey because her brother plays hockey, her father coaches hockey and I, as a Canadian, was raised on hockey. Hockey is instinctive and environmental for her – she imprinted hockey because of her bonds to her family. There is this grand entryway that leads to the rink and you have to imagine a first grader in a hot pink coat, pinks shoes, legwarmers and mittens holding a hot pink hockey stick over her shoulder and me carrying a hockey back of equipment as big as she is. There are children and parents everywhere, coming and going from swimming, soccer and public skating. And then I hear it. “Mommy, can girls play hockey?” “I guess so, honey.” Pause for a moment. In 2013, a young girl had to ask her mother whether or not girls can play hockey. Imagine all the other “things” girls don’t know they can do: rocket scientist, mechanic, horse jockey, architect, writer, NASCAR driver, movie director, surgeon, veterinarian, [fill in the blank].
I am a big believer that if you can see something you can begin to dream about it. Once you start to dream, then, and only then, can you begin to make it a reality. So with that, I am challenging everyone who reads this to find amazing role models for every girl to see — submit a picture or Tweet with the hash tag #GirlsCanBe or post it here. Just do something, anything that will help a girl see what she can be. And in case you had any doubt, girls can play hockey.