My daughter did not want to get out of bed this morning for school. This is nothing new. It is a scene we play out every single morning.
She rolls around and moans and whines in her bed. I send in the dog to lick her face and rouse her awake.
Except this morning was different. This morning, when she did her usual whine and moan, the dog was laying comfortably next to me on the floor as I rubbed my little girl’s back.
I need you to get out of bed and go to school this morning for Malala.
Grumbles and a slight roll over from the bed.
Hala. I need you to get out of bed today, without any whining, without complaining for Malala.
…and then a grumpy, whiny voice comes from under the blankets.
Mom, what are you talking about, what is Malala.
No. Not WHAT is Malala…WHO is Malala.
Malala is a girl, just like you. She lives in Pakistan. And all she wants to do is go to school and learn. She wants to get out of bed every morning and learn. And the other day, she was coming home from school, and horrible men who think she should NOT be allowed to learn shot her. They shot her because she is a girl who dares to think she deserves an education. She dares to think she is just as smart as boys. She dares to think she should get to read every book and do every math worksheet and write every paper and do every report and learn and learn and learn just like every boy in Pakistan. But some of the people there do not believe that girls should learn. Malala stood up to those bullies. She stood up to the mean, horrible men who believe girls should not be allowed to go to school. And she went to school. So you, you will get out of bed, and you will go to school without one whine, without one moan, without one complaint…because you are lucky to live in a country where you CAN.
Slowly my daughter got out of bed. Looking at me with confusion. She got dressed with me watching, and we went into my room where she brushed her teeth and continued to get herself ready for school. So far, she hadn’t said a word. She was still processing everything I had told her. The silence was deafening.
I wasn’t sure I was going to tell her. She is only seven. A seven-year old should be not burdened by the evil in this world. But she is also old enough to understand that she is extremely fortunate to be able to get an education in a world that still does not treat its females with the respect and reverence it treats its males.
She has noticed this recently. She sees it. She has asked me questions. So when she did not want to get out of bed for school, it seemed only natural I remind her there are thousands of girls who would give anything to be getting out of bed this morning to go to school, possibly none more than Malala.
Finally, while I brushed her hair, my daughter spoke about what I had said to get her out of bed and moving:
Do you think she’s going to be ok?
The girl, the girl who wants to learn and they hurt…
Oh. I hope so. But I’m not sure. They got her out of Pakistan and she is in England where doctors are working right now to try and help her. I haven’t seen the news yet but I know they got her to a hospital in England.
She has to be ok Mom. She has to be. And those men, the ones that hurt her…they probably won’t get in trouble, will they?
I don’t know honey. They do things differently in that country. It’s not like our country.
I know but, they are men. So they probably won’t get in that much trouble, even if they do get in trouble.
I continued to brush her hair, listening, in awe at how much she understood about a situation I had only given her a fraction of information about. And I answered as best I could without depressing her entirely. It didn’t matter though, she seemed to grasp exactly what was going on, and exactly how dire the situation is for women and girls.
Mom, it used to be like that here, didn’t it?
Well, not exactly. But there was a time when women couldn’t vote and there were only women’s schools- and at a lot of those schools they only taught things like cooking and how to take care of your husband…getting you ready to be a ‘good wife.’
What if I don’t want to be a wife?
Well it’s a good thing that things aren’t like they used to be, then, huh? You can now be anything you want, and you do not have to get married, or you can if you want. It’s up to you.
I’m glad it’s up to me. I want a ranch, and horses, and I might get married or I might not. We’ll see. But I want that girl to be ok Mom. She should come to school here. Why doesn’t she just move here?
Well, it’s not that simple. She wants to make sure girls in her country are treated equally. She could just come here, but she wouldn’t be able to forget about all the other girls still in Pakistan who are scared into saying home from school. Scared into putting down their books. She can’t forget about them, can she?
No. No. But all the girls could come. What if our Army guys went and got all the girls in all the places and brought them here.
But honey, what about their families? They wouldn’t want to leave their families. And they want to change their own countries. They want to change the world.
And I held her face in my hands, and I looked into her eyes.
Do you understand why you need to go to school today. And every single day.
And with a resolve I see ONLY in my daughter, especially when she’s angry, she nodded.
We then went about our usual morning. Breakfast. Shoes. Backpack grabbing…and we headed out the door.
As we left in the car I caught her in my review mirror. She was looking out the window.
Honey, are you ok?
I’m fine Mom. I’m mad.
I’m mad too.
Being a girl shouldn’t be hard.
No, it shouldn’t.
She’s going to be ok, Mom. I know she is.
And the morning continued. She met her friends at the school gate and giggled. And I watched them enter their classroom, iPads in hand, along with toys and books. So many luxuries. So much at their fingertips. She waved goodbye and I waved back. She blew me a kiss and I caught it and put it to my heart. I blew her a kiss back…and she put it on her iPad. And I knew what she meant. That’s where she keeps her books. She took my kiss and in an instant gave it to Malala, and showed me she understood those books on that iPad would be used.
Today my daughter is at school for Malala.