Unleashing Females into the Wild

The month of October started off really testing myself on the mountains of the Lost Coast trail, and ended up watching my daughter really test herself on her longest hike to date (4.5 miles) on Angel Island and also climbing the large boulders of Yosemite’s Mirror Lake Trail.

Of course I am a proud mama practically all the time, but something about her taking on these hikes makes me really glow.  There’s a lot that I’ve learned in my life through being out in nature, and I don’t think I understood it’s impact until later in life.

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My parents taught me a lot of self-sufficiency being out fishing or camping. I would come back from a a day spent catching on the river and wanting to immediately go out to the garden in the back to dig up some worms to bring back to the river the next weekend and catch more.  That Hills Bros coffee can felt like a trophy of sorts; that I caught so much and that I am getting ready to do it again the next weekend.

I’ve always enjoyed challenge of making and keeping fires.  I know the joy of jumping into water, when I didn’t know the depth or the temperature, and did it anyway.  That feeling or knowledge was  something that later on in life I was able to put it all into perspective, and see the effects of doing these outdoor things and how it has changed me.

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I do believe that we consciously and subconsciously have this double standard for girls and boys and that society does put different limitations on girls and that there’s a misconception about what “being a girl” really means.  It’s deeply rooted in certain cultural backgrounds as well, and Filipinos are no different.  I know even in well intentions and hidden in care, the dark reality of it comes back to haunt me.

Girls are taught at an early age that they need to be delicate or fragile, suppressed of their want to dig for worms but rather pick a lovely bouquet.  That they will always have men (and women) who second guess their decisions and question their intentions.

The influence can be something as jarring as someone asking if it’s your time of the month, so something as small as your mom wanting you to sit still and be quiet while your brother is allowed to play.  It hides itself in the sweet concern of my husband not wanting me to pick up tacos at the taco truck late at night.  We have lived with that constant buzzing in our ear and start to question what we do or if we can do it.

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As I found myself doing more hiking and camping in the last year, I’ve had thoughts of how my daughter sees it all.  She’s still young and we try hard to find that balance between giving her the confidence to try and knowing that the world will try to stack the odds against her.  I look back on my experiences in nature when I climbed that tree but came dangerously close to breaking my neck but left unscathed.  The moments where I was challenged, or in danger, or unsure… but went ahead to do something anyway and left the situation empowered or filled with confidence that I’ve overcome a situation.

Last year, as my daughter climbed 3 miles to the campsite on Angel Island without any assistance, she confided in me at the end of the day, “Mommy, today was a hard day… but it was a good day.”  I will never forget those words because I knew she understood at that point what she just did and she felt proud of herself for completing it on her own.

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Yes, it’s important to help guide your kids though all the troubles that they will face in their life.  Yes, I do feel super protective of her and want to shield her from so much.  The problem with all of that is they need to learn it on their own too.  They have to be able to guide themselves, push themselves, and protect themselves from what life will give them.  It took me years to make that connection in my own life to those humbled beginnings of collecting worms in a coffee can, but I’m glad to see it now, and I can only look on at her accomplishments that she makes in nature… and find contentment as her #1 cheerleader.

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