“The Gutsy Girl” by Caroline Paul
I wish I’d written this book because Ms. Paul, a former firefighter, is so right about our culture emphasizing physical perfection for girls over the importance of developing grit and inner strength.
I was lucky. My mother and father wanted me to grow up and be a lady, but only to a certain practical point.
One spring my dad bought me a used bicycle and painted it red for my eleventh birthday. The bike was too big for me, but I wanted to learn to ride. All summer I fell, got up, and tried again. I took dance lessons and my balance was excellent; I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t ride that bike. My knees were continually bloody or scabbed over. Mother was sympathetic and bandaged my knees the first, second, and third times I fell, but her interested waned as the summer wore on.
I washed my own skinned knee, put on the red Mercurochrome, stuck a Band Aid on the ugly mess, and continued my stubborn attempts to ride on the gravel streets. It never occurred to me to bother mom or dad about the wretched process. Dad was busy in the television repair shop, and mom was teaching Vacation Bible School at Westside Methodist Church and dealing with some judgmental woman’s cutting remarks about Mrs. Twyla Tharp’s lack of commitment to God or the church. I never got the entire story because mom covered the phone receiver and told me to leave the room.
I am thankful my parents were too busy to protect me from the adventure of taking a risk and going for it. I learned valuable lessons about bravery and independence that summer. I learned to ride a bike on my own, gained confidence, and I survived. Later, the scars on my knees would be proof I was a gutsy girl long before I became a “spunky” policewoman. The wonderful freedom of riding that bike, the air blowing past me, and being in control of where and how fast I wanted to go was intoxicating. Heaven.