I sometimes try to pinpoint the exact moment I realized how thankful I am for my parents. I squeeze my eyes shut and force the gears grinding in my brain to halt and stutter backward, to stop at a moment that would make sense. But I never make it there. What I do remember is a childhood of unwavering love. Of a tough, anxiety ridden teenage experience that my parents had to fight through to reach me. What I understand now is that I have two parents who taught me what love should be. What an equal relationship looks like and what parenting means.
My mom is this strong, smart, independent woman who kicks ass at the gym and plants flowers on weekends. She taught my sister and me never to settle for anything in our lives, to work hard and care about everything. She made sure we followed our passions and did our homework. We were to be nothing less than everything we ever wanted to be and then some. We could be smart and strong, funny and beautiful because women are amazing. She made sure we knew our own worth.
I see her in myself every day. When I feel strong and assertive, I feel her with me, hands clapping together, saying “you go girl!”
My dad is a funny, boyish charm kind of guy who has a very stern and wise side. He made sure we understood fairness. He wanted us always to contribute, to leave the world a better place than when we came into it because everything in the universe is connected. He taught us that girls could get muddy, play hockey, shoot guns and eat beef jerky. He held us when we cried, and blotted throw up away from our mouths with a hot towel when we were sick. My dad taught us that men can be caregivers too. He showed us that people can change by constantly striving to be a better person himself. He is my hero.
When I’m lost and feeling secluded, I comfort myself with mantras my dad has armed me with throughout the years. His soothing tone of voice washes over me and lets me know I’ll never be alone.
I grew up with two strong, feminist role models. Two parents who knew girls can do anything boys can do. They taught me to seek love and acceptance from myself, not a guy. To work and provide for myself, not be dependent on a man . Both of my parents have contributed to my feeling that being a woman is a huge part of my empowerment. My dad even taught me how to flex my muscles and scowl (I’m pretty sure it’s on a video cassette dated 1995).
It’s because of them that I know both men and women are capable of supporting and uplifting women in our society. That both genders deserve equal respect and equal opportunities. I believe in men because I know my dad isn’t the only one with good intentions towards women. Part of why I feel positive about the future is because I know they won’t give up on it. They fight for what they believe in. They fight for me so that I can continue to fight for what I believe in.
I won’t stop making the world a better place because I want more people to raise more girls to become empowered women who fight for each other.
Thank you mom and dad.