unresolved tensions

i was hoping to write a glowing report back from our girls studies’ mother-teacher conference for y’all.  and it was great: there were tears, mother to mother advice offering, deep sharing, mutual appreciation.  there was talk of organizing a mother daughter retreat, a week long girls studies summer camp, it was so validating and reassuring.  but then the next day i got an email about what was happening downstairs, between the girls and their brothers.  there were things happening that made people feel unsafe, uncomfortable and hurt.  i was a bit devastated, but resilient.  i talked to the mother who brought this information to the group and resolved to tackle it in class the next week, which was one wednesday ago now.

the girls who felt most hurt by things happening that night brought them up and articulated their sadness and boundaries really well.  i was proud of how they were able to tell each other, face to face, how things they’d said or done to each other had hurt.  this is the kind of stuff i’m still working on at age 24.  i offered to do a mediated conversation between two of the girls and that was well received.  then one of the girls mentioned the peer to peer conversation about sex that had made them uncomfortable.  and she shared that it was scary for her to have that conversation without an adult present.  i asked if it was something that we wanted to explore together.  the girls all seemed enthusiastic, so we moved forward.  and really we only shared the stories of our sex talks with parents, and mostly shared how awkward and mortifying that can be.  they didnt ask any questions and i didnt offer any details.  then we moved on again: to puberty and periods and body changes.  again, the girls dominated the conversation and i felt so thrilled by their engagement.  afterwards emma and i were glowing, feeling really good about what we’d been able to tackle and accomplish together that day.

then i went home and there were more revelatory emails.  apparently one of the girls had been uncomfortable again during class when we were talking about sex.  i was so sad to hear that, because i’d thought i’d read the room and she’s been pretty engaged.  but it created an opportunity to instate safe words, so that the girls are always in charge of the conversation and communicating their boundaries.  then i made a mistake.  and i want to fully own it was a mistake.  in class the day before the girls had asked for the link to my blog, so i sent it to some of the parents.  and things just got worse.  parents started questioning my judgment around what i should and shouldn’t share with the girls.  and it’s true, my blog is not something i should be offering young girls.  older girls, sure, but not this age range.  then the combination of sharing my blog, muddied email communication and one last challenging communication brought us to a place of temporarily canceling classes.

during one long email thread, i shared that there is a tension for me, between honoring the requests of the girls and honoring the boundaries of the parents.  i have modeled girls studies to be totally girl directed.  i rarely offer content and prefer to let the girls choose topics and push conversations along.  sometimes they need a nudge, but usually i’m just there to hold space and share my own stories.  and i think this tension pushed us over the edge.  and it’s not something i regret or want to take back.

i believe that the girls know what they want and need and that, overall they’re pretty good at taking us there.  and i fully understand that there are some topics we’re already introduced to at a young age that we just dont want to talk to our parents about.  and i also understand that as parents it can be scary and unsettling to know that some of these really important conversations are happening without you and with someone you may or may not know very well.

i’m not sure where we’ll go from here.  there have been some more reassuring email exchanges in the last couple of days and i think i will sit down with at least one of the moms before next week when hopefully we can have class again.  i’m open to hearing what some boundary challenging topics might be for the parents, so that i have that awareness when we’re in class.  but i still feel more responsible to the girls.  if they want to explore something, i want to offer them a safe space to do it in.

so while i sip coffee and contemplate next steps, most of the girls are at the house where we hold class having a day off together in the sunshine.  i hope with all my heart that they’re having fun and that we can resolve this and keep going with something i think is totally revolutionary.  i only wish i could have been with them, laughing and running around and being light hearted today.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. joyce
    Mar 14, 2012 @ 21:13:38

    sara,
    this is the heart of the tension “i believe that the girls know what they want and need and that, overall they’re pretty good at taking us there. and i fully understand that there are some topics we’re already introduced to at a young age that we just dont want to talk to our parents about. and i also understand that as parents it can be scary and unsettling to know that some of these really important conversations are happening without you and with someone you may or may not know very well.”

    knowing it (and you do know it) will take you both to the heart of the tension and beyond the tension. i applaud, appreciate and love your courage and wisdom to own your part. thanks for your diligence, attention and care Goddess.

    Reply

  2. paxus
    Mar 15, 2012 @ 04:58:59

    i think you are providing an invaluable service to these girls and i think girls studies is a model for what is needed in many places. i hope you are able to navigate this emotionally complex territory, it is important way beyond this group.

    Reply

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