On why I was filled with joy when my 7 y.o. daughter asked for a spiked dog collar…… to wear
Last night, CJ, my 7 year old daughter, asked if she could get a spiked dog collar. To wear. On her own neck. For the first day of school.
My first response, was, “What? Why?” as I had flashbacks of my own teen years, vacillating between heavy metal and emo, and all the lost angst I personally felt manifesting itself in my 7 year old baby girl. I thought I had time before this style (although I love it) piqued her interest.
She answers, beaming from ear to ear. ”Because, I want to be like Abby from NCIS.” (Before I get lectures on letting her watch NCIS, she has only caught parts of the show here and there during times I have watched it and I considered the material she saw acceptable.)
She added, ”She is awesome. She’s really smart, and is a great scientist. Without her, the team would never have answers to their questions. ”
And then my heart filled with joy.
You see, Abby is a forensic scientist that does it all. She is a non-stereotypical scientist in that she is covered in tats, wears all black, sleeps in a coffin, and wears a dog collar. She is brilliant, quirky, strong, loving, fiercely happy, loyal, and a fantastic scientist. She kicks some serious butt on all fronts and has a fun style. She is a great role model for girls.
You see, I worry about the message that young girls get about being smart, working hard, and finding joy and passion in their lives. Just google JCPenney “Too Pretty to Do Homework” t-shirt, and you can see exactly what I mean. It is just one of several “sassy” girl t-shirts suggesting girls have little time for school. This “Too cool, too pretty, too popular” to bother with school permeates the culture. Recent studies have suggested that girls still steer clear of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) interests and that the overall percentage of women in these careers has not changed much in the last 10 to 20 years. While I cultivate all of my daughters interests, I make sure that she knows that women can be mathematicians, engineers and scientists. I teach her science, refuse to dumb it down for her, and teach her of the joys in discovery. I always hoped that she got the message. It seems that she has.
She wants to be like Abby when she grows up. She wants to dress like her, have fun like her, have great friends like her, find the answers, make discoveries, and use the “cool equipment.” And for that, I couldn’t be happier.
I wish that all girls, nay, all students, can find that joy and passion in STEM without fear of making mistakes, without thinking that it is only for “nerds”.
So, my next action? Getting back to grad school, then enacting a rather elaborate plan I have been thinking about for months, reaching more students and teachers, hopefully changing the face of education.
Oh, and maybe, just maybe, consider getting that dog collar for CJ. Not to wear (yet), but as a reminder of a great character role model.