Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Nov. 24, 2006

"We can do it!"

Daughter Katie turns 14 this week. She always has a family celebration on her actual birthday and a "kid" party the week before. For the past few years, her choice for the latter has been a movie, followed by pizza and a chocolate ice cream cake at our place.

Katie's movie choice was "Happy Feet," an animated film about a fluffy, blue-eyed penguin named Mumble who is a bit of an outcast among his peers. Mumble's penguin family and friends can sing "heart songs," but he just squawks and screeches. However, he does have rhythm - it's just that it's in his tap-dancing feet instead of his voice.

The movie's moral - that penguins (and people) can succeed with different talents - played out as the girls ate pizza. While some of them sang beautifully, others told stories or joked, making their friends laugh.

As they sang, gabbed and giggled, I thought about how things have changed from my mother's generation to Katie's. When Mom was growing up, teenage girls concentrated on acting like "young ladies" and preparing to be housewives. But today, the possibilities are wide open. One minute they can be "girly" - enjoying scented bath oil, talking about shampoo and comparing notes about style - while the next they can be tough jocks, jostling for the ball as they race up and down the basketball court. Jammed fingers and bruises become badges of courage.

But with more choices comes the need to sort out who they are and what they like. Katie butted up against this problem last year. She wanted to go out for basketball, but she also wanted to continue her violin lessons which conflicted with basketball practice. In the end, the violin won out.

However, this year, I could tell that she really wanted to do both.

"Mom, I'll regret it for the rest of my life if I don't at least try basketball," she told me.

I thought the game would be good for Katie because she'd get great exercise and gain some team-building skills in the process.

"Well, then, you should go for it," I told her. With a little effort, we were able to arrange private lessons so she could continue with the violin, too.

While most of her classmates played basketball last year and some have been playing since fourth grade, Katie is just learning the basics. Still, when I compare the first game I attended with the one last week, I'm amazed at how much she and the rest of the players have improved. Their rebounding, shooting and defending skills are so much better, and they seem to "click" as a team.

But Katie's efforts on the court haven't taken anything away from her work on the violin and she has improved greatly on that score as well. This sort of "foot-in-two-worlds" situation provided the theme for her birthday cake. A picture of Rosie the Riveter graced the top of the cake. Katie had spoken several times of her interest in Rosie and the other women who helped bring about an Allied victory during World War II. Then, many of our nation's men were drawn into the service and, with the need to produce planes, tanks and other items for the war effort, women were asked to split their time between the home and the factory.

After Katie's party was over, I thought about how this will be the last year in the grade school building for Katie and her friends. They will gain more confidence, try new things and become more independent. Americans have always been noted for their "can-do" attitude, and for Katie, older sister Mariya and other women of their generation, the choices of what they can do are wide open.

I again thought about the cake. Next to Rosie's picture were the words "We can do it!" I'm sure they can!

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