Before our trip to Israel this past April, my sister told us about an interesting activity they enjoyed. They went to an anti-terrorist training presentation. We thought it would be something different that our kids would like, so we booked a visit. We knew that each participant would have the opportunity to shoot a gun. Cool, right?
We asked some friends if they wanted to join us but they were concerned that their daughters would be freaked out. My daughter caught wind of this.
“What if I’m too scared?” she asked me.
“Come on – girls can do anything,” I told her.
I am not an uber-feminist, but I’m also not a fan of the notion that girls have to be shrinking violets. It’s one thing to be nervous about shooting a gun – that’s understandable, regardless of your sex. But I didn’t want her to think she had a girl card that she could throw anytime she wanted, no questions asked. Was she actually afraid or did she think she was supposed to be scared and she was sticking to the script?
My mother, who was as traditional as they come, gave my sister and I a book when we were young called, “Girls Can Do Anything” – be soldiers, policewomen, doctors, astronauts, and firefighters. That was 40 years ago – it’s even more true today. Plus, I hate to tell my daughter this, but if she thinks shooting a gun is scary, wait until pregnancy and childbirth – life experiences truly not for the faint of heart. Being a mother is both exhilarating and terrifying. Better to learn early that life is full of daunting things. So dammit, we were going to be tough like the Israeli soldiers who would teach us about anti-terrorist training. And hopefully we’d like it.
It happened to be guys, not girls, who taught our session. They were former soldiers who looked “straight out of Central Casting,” as my sister said. They were swarthy, brawny, passionate and super cool. My daughter clung to me and my husband as the demonstration began, her eyes wide with curiosity and trepidation. I was hopeful she was going to be alright.
Then came the live counter-terrorism demonstration. Three men, playing the part of terrorists, came running through our group as the soldiers shouted for everyone to get down. I could see my daughter across the compound, lying on the floor, lip quivering, fear and misery in her eyes and on her face. My poor baby. I felt bad and was eager to get up and comfort her. But I had other thoughts as well.
“Please don’t let those mothers be right,” I pleaded in my head. What kind of mother was I to put my daughter in a scary situation, just to make her tougher? What was I trying to prove?
I willed my daughter to toughen up, not have a nervous breakdown and dissolve into a pile of tears. She got up, came over to me and said she did not like this at all. I assured her that we were totally safe and that they were just acting – like a performance.
This seemed to mollify her and to my relief, she calmed down. She shot a handgun and a sniper rifle. She wasn’t bad either. I think she felt reluctant pride that she had rallied and faced her fear. Or maybe she just knew that I desperately wanted her to be okay. I asked her about the experience the other day. She seemed ambivalent about the whole thing, so apparently she was not obviously scarred.
I knew she could do it and I couldn’t be prouder. That’s my girl.