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The Age of Wants


March 8, 2012

My daughter wants to curl her hair. Like me, she has straight hair without a thought of wave. Without a working electric curling iron, we have resorted to an antique iron held in the gas stove burner. I’m learning again how to use this old fashioned gizmo so that the curls come out fat and springy. She bounces around the house, enjoying this foray into curly-haired beauty.

I remember the same feeling. I used the same old iron to curl my hair and go out ice skating—sometimes by myself or with cousins and friends after dinner in the dark with flashlights and old lanterns. The curls made me feel pretty and added to the free feeling of whirling around on the dark ice. In college, I circled my eyes with heavy dark eyeliner. But makeup is an even greater challenge to my coordination than a curling iron. I never quite taught myself to use makeup well. More often than not I scorn the whole idea. I have learned to prefer my naked face.

Lily is coming to the age of wants—be it curls or makeup or certain sneakers or someone to ice skate with. And while she still makes Play-Doh animals, catches frogs and plays with her dolls, I know the day is coming. I only hope that I am up to the challenge of helping her find her balance as herself and become an independent and strong, kind and ever-growing woman. It sounds like a lot to me, as I have spent years of questioning and affirming my own self-worth.

Last year Lily took part in a program at school called “Girls on the run,” sponsored by the Hancock Community Education Foundation. Despite the hokey name, the program was a huge success for the girls (grades three through five). Girls in grades six through eight also participated in a companion course called “Girls on track.”

The curriculum focused on building self- esteem and both emotional and physical health while developing the girls’ running skills. The program cumulated with a 5K run held at The Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown with girls from all over central New York.

Originally begun in 1996 by runner Molly Barker in Charlotte, NC, “Girls on the Run” is currently offered in more than 170 cities across North America.

This year, Lily was waiting to sign up again and told me (rather gleefully, I thought) that the boys in her class were jealous of this exclusively girl-powered event. She said the boys say they will always run faster than girls. I said that’s just typical bravado of a fourth grader—boy or girl. Besides, I suggested, (amid her eye-rolling) that maybe it’s not about having a contest.