Crack! The pink bat connected with the ball and it was a line drive between 1st and 2nd base. My girl took off toward 1st, my heart leapt with excitement for her, and behind me a man’s surprised voice said, “Whoa, she hit it.”
To set the scene, KBear had repeatedly asked to play baseball throughout the winter. So, fair enough, I sign her up. We are not a baseball family. We are a football family. Both American and European. And yet, my spectrum-y daughter shows interest in a team sport and we run with it. Since we aren’t a baseball family, I didn’t realize that at 8 years old, the sport involving bases, pitches, mitts, and bats, was already divided into baseball and softball. So, I signed my girl up for baseball. She is the only girl on the team. She is only 1 of 3 girls in the league.
So, we’re watching all these little boys ahead of her miss the ball or hit the ball. The man behind me says nothing or says, “good hit.” The only girl on the team hits the ball, and he surprisedly says, “whoa. She hit it.”
Truth be told, I was surprised she hit it. But I was surprised she hit it because she has dyspraxia and up til 2 weeks ago, had never swung a bat. The man behind me, could not possibly have known any of this. He was surprised she hit it, merely because she is a girl. And it couldn’t have been surprise because she is physically meeker than the boys. Yes, when puberty hits, male bodies typically develop increased physical strength. These kids are 8 and quite cocooned in their pre-pubescence. Plus, my daughter is at least 10 inches taller than any other kid on the team.
When will we stop being surprised by girls’ successes?
When we express surprise at anyone’s success, we are unwittingly (or perhaps wittingly) expressing a lack of confidence, low expectations, an air of inferiority. Why do we continue to set the bar so low?
Whether we are talking about baseball or spelling bees or STEM, large segments of our society maintain archaic beliefs that girls are somehow less than, or can only be good at certain things. Our society continues to be surprised when a female shows gifted leadership abilities or chooses to study engineering or surpasses a male in any area other than the arts or “soft sciences”.
It is time to stop being surprised. It is time to look at girls and wait to get to know them before passing judgment. The same goes for boys.
I understand that it’s difficult for our brains not to set pre-determined expectations. I understand that our brains are always comparing and looking for patterns and discriminating. But we can train our brains to slow down. We can train our brains to accept the reality that is in front of us, instead of forcing our own beliefs to skew the world.
Intentionally check your thoughts. Be mindful of pre-judgments. Let time and actions and understanding determine what your expectations of an individual should be.
And, if you are still surprised, bite your tongue. Keep your thoughts to yourself. Don’t let that surprise contaminate the confidence and perceptions of the young people around you.
By the way, my daughter’s second at bat, she whacked a huge hit that brought cheers from all the parents, and she was the only player on either team to bat a thousand for the game. Take that, surprised man sitting behind me.