“Mommy? What’s ‘girl power’?” the brown twin asked during lunch. I looked at him blankly, caught in a question I couldn’t immediately answer. I’ve never tried to define girl power, I just know when I see it. Quite honestly, I rarely use the phrase, but as my mind flashed back to earlier that morning, I knew exactly why he asked. ‘Girl Power’ had rolled off my tongue several times, spoken so familiarly—like summertime and peach pie.
We played family soccer on Sunday, a tradition instituted almost immediately after our Ethiopian babes came home. Recognizing its healing benefits for our new children and forced bonding for all of us, I dutifully played round after round, every Sunday afternoon, for most of a year.
The days of my forced participation have gone by. However, Sunday, I played. I confess, I did it a bit grudgingly, not really wanting to deal with all the character training, which naturally goes hand-in-hand with simple playing of a game. But, I saw I was out-numbered; six faces pleading, “Please, Mommy. Play?” I didn’t even try.
Superman, Sister and I played on one team; the four boys on the other. We played to five each game, best 2 of 3. Though post-hurricane weather proved substantially milder than our regular off the chart humidity, by game two, we were all sucking air with jelly legs (well, I can only speak for myself—but by the looks of the faces around me, I’d say I was in good company).
Throughout both games, Sister and I passed and played in beautiful unison. Quiet encouragements, high-5’s and pound-its all became part of our secret language; pulling the other along, though tired, thirsty, and gaspy with words.
After two games, we were tied. Children were wiped out. One complained of stomach aches, one wanted to change teams. One demanded we play on, but only if the rest of his team, “step up and stop making me do all the work.” Sister sat unusually quiet, looking at me, knowing I was exhausted, wondering how I would respond.
Superman and I knew we were stuck. We couldn’t quit with a tie, he wouldn’t allow it and, frankly, neither would I. If we pushed a third game, we undoubtedly would shove already strained fragile egos over the cliff of coping, into an abyss of intolerance and complete meltdown. We stalled. We chatted. We secretly racked our brains. Finally, he pulled it out—Penalty Kicks.
After four rounds of penalty kicks, Superman, Sister and I prevailed. How’d we do it? Girl power. In the first round, two of four boys made goals on Sister. Our turn. Sister missed. Superman missed. If I missed, we’re out. I shot right and scored. Sister’s turn again (she took all our 4th shots). She stepped back, grinning ear to ear, rushed forward and kicked with all her might. SCORE! Girl power kept us alive. Round after round, Sister and I stepped up and did our jobs. We didn’t always make it, but we didn’t always miss, either. And in the end, it was Sister who made the winning shot.
Later, while front porch sittin’, Superman and I re-lived family soccer glory. We recognized children’s strengths and deliberated on how to best re-direct weaknesses. I looked at him and said, “Sister did great today. You always come home with reports of much swooning; but I never heard one complaint from her.” He looked at me and grinned. “She played a thousand times better than I’ve ever seen her play with just us boys. Ever. Watching the two of you run the field today was beautiful.”
Girl Power. Superman knows when he sees it, too.
But still, the question lingers—what is girl power? Winning shots on goal? Playing tough in sports? Relentless effort, even when exhausted? Is girl power simply a result of Title 9 and the feminist movement?
No. Girl power is God breathed. Giving it over to surface-y, human-created constructs, cheapens its essence to a woman’s character. Girl power gives women the perseverance to stay in the heat of battle despite extreme exhaustion. It is the special way women can encourage women, moving one another beyond personal fears and limitations. Girl power is the perfect help a woman is to the men in her life. It’s her ability to remain vulnerable (not to be confused with a wallflower or victim); offering honest transparency, powerful enough to melt hardened hearts, open clenched fists, crumble stone-walls built as a barrier against deep life-giving relationships. Girl Power mentors, influences, and invests in the lives of others; penetrating deep into the soul, recognizing beautiful potential. Like the maid, Abilene, in the story (and movie) The Help, girl power sees through the surface, gazes into the eyes of another and says, “You is good, you is kind, you is important.” (of course, this is only one way Abilene embodies girl power in The Help)
Girl Power isn’t boastful or haughty. It doesn’t manipulate the men in her life, nor does it strive to cut down their strength. Girl Power doesn’t fight for superiority to men, nor does it cloak itself in the same strength a man offers. It feels no desire to try “Man Power” on for size.
I don’t remember exactly how I explained girl power to my son. I think I said something about a special strength God put in girls to stay strong, positive and persevere with their people. Girl power helps girls give their all, no matter what. Son #2 (California) chimed in immediately (and quite definitively) with, “It’s what girls say to make boys like them.” We laughed. He’s right.
I see my daughter. I see me. And I see our girl power. Though almost indefinable; I feel its beautiful way when lived in the air God breathes… for both of us.