Last week I guiltily left three of my four children sick at home with a hodge podge of childcare and went to Los Angeles to explore bringing Dynamo Girl to the West Coast. I met with lots of interesting and bright women who are working in all sorts of ways to empower girls in their communities. I ran a candid and meaningful puberty workshop for good friends within the warm confines of my brother’s LA living room. Those were professional experiences that felt easy and natural. In addition to doing things about which I felt confident, I was also in LA to try something new and scary — developing a TV series that reflects my life at 42 and my daughter’s life at 11, examining our intersecting and diverging identities at this particular moment in time.
If you’ve ever been in a Dynamo Girl class, you’d know that we spend a lot of time encouraging girls to try new things that might be a little scary. Dynamo Girl rests on the belief that it is critical to teach girls how to take safe risks without fear of failure. Our girls venture into the unknown (within our nurturing environment) so that when the stakes are higher outside our bubble, they have developed the muscle to give new things a shot. So I should be really good at trying new things, right? WRONG. I should be really comfortable taking a risk without worrying about making a mistake, right? WRONG. I’m terrible at trying things that don’t come easily. I am terrified of making mistakes. And yet, here I was flying across the country to do just that.
When I told my daughter what I was going to do in LA, including the idea for a TV series, she asked incredulously: “Why would anyone want to do that with you?” To be clear, my daughter did not say it to be cruel; she said it because what I was attempting to do did not fit into her narrative of who I am. And also because she can basically read my mind at all times. It was as if my daughter had climbed into my head, scanned the ticker tape of my thoughts and pulled out the very line that had been running over and over in my brain: Why would anyone want to make a series with me? Who was I to get out of the proscribed box in which I had put myself for so many years? I sat for a moment before answering her and I thought: what would I want a Dynamo Girl to say to that question? After my hurt and fury had dissipated a bit, I responded: “I’m not sure if anyone will want to create this show with me, but I’m going to give it a shot. If it doesn’t work, then at least I know I’ve tried.”
For four days I drove around LA from meeting to meeting with her question echoing in my head: “Why would anyone want to do that with you?” and my response to her echoed back like a mantra that needs editing: “I’m going to give it a shot. If it doesn’t work, then at least I know I’ve tried.” As painful as it was to have my daughter, arguably my greatest champion, question my ability to accomplish something, I felt bolstered by the knowledge that I was going to take a risk, not just encourage others to do so. I was not just paying lip service to the advice I’ve given hundreds of girls, I was living it.
At every meeting last week, I told the story of my daughter’s baffled question as to why I was trying this new experiment. Each retelling was like a self-flagellating confession that I didn’t belong in the very meeting in which I was literally sitting at that moment. However, sharing the story gave me an avenue to both openly acknowledge that I was out of my depths and yet, still pursuing my idea in the face of uncertainty. By the end of the trip, after several retellings and in-depth descriptions of what it means to be a mother parenting a daughter at this age, I realized a new part of the narrative had been born. In addition to my daughter’s question and my response, I added the final, and arguably, most important element to the story: when all is said and done, whether I succeed or fail at this, I will have modeled for my daughter in real time what it looks like to take a risk with a good chance of failure. She will see that I am still standing, I am still loved, and I am still going to try something new and a little scary.