Tearsa Smith is a morning news anchor on Good Morning Tennessee at WATE 6 On Your Side. She is a wife and mother of two.
Seven years ago, I started the hardest job I’ve ever been assigned: the role of mother. You would think being on live TV every morning for four and half hours would be pretty tough, but for me, it’s my comfort place. I know that when the countdown makes it to “one” – it’s time to be camera ready. But there’s no countdown for motherhood and the “show” never ends. Around every corner there’s a new challenge. Don’t get me wrong – when I say motherhood is the hardest job I’ve experienced, I don’t mean hard as in bad, but rather it’s the one job you don’t want to get wrong. (Oh, but you will from time to time.)
Seven years ago feels like just yesterday. Sometimes I look at my daughter, Kherington, in amazement. She is my “Princess Tomboy.” It’s a term I gave her after the day she came home in her beautiful pink school clothes with dirt on her knees and shoes scuffed beyond repair. She enjoys life as long as she can play hard while sprinkled in glitter and wearing pink or purple. She enjoys the socialization of a tea party and the solitude of searching for insects in a pile of dirt.
As parents, we are regularly told, often unintentionally, how girls and boys “should” be. Sometimes we’re the ones projecting our own influence on them. I used to love dolls growing up – there isn’t one that didn’t meet my hair-styling skills in the early 80s. So it completely perplexes me when my own little girl, to this day, turns her nose up at dolls. Her preferred toys are the Power Rangers action figures she shares with her little brother. It gives me such a laugh. One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned as a mother is to let my daughter be herself and find her own way.
This school year, she had to do a project on an “Influential American” for first grade. She casually said, “I will do George Washington.” While a noteworthy pick, I thought she would really enjoy learning about a strong American woman.
We went to the library and chose several books. We narrowed our choices down to Madam C.J. Walker, Eleanor Roosevelt, Misty Copeland, and Dr. Mae Jemison.
Walker was an entrepreneur, civil rights leader, philanthropist, and one of the first American women to become a self-made millionaire. Roosevelt was the wife of President Franklin Roosevelt. She changed the role of First Lady to one of activism and social justice. As the first African-American principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre, you’ll find Copeland in the headlines today as she is transforming the face of professional ballet. Then there’s Jemison who was the first African-American female astronaut.
Dr. Jemison not only was a doctor, member of the Peace Corps, and scientist, but she also was a dancer. This blew Kherington away. To her, Dr. Jemison was a grown up “Princess Tomboy!” She still has her project poster up on her wall because she says she wants to grow up and be a scientist, too. We spent several weeks after that assignment doing at-home science experiments. Thanks Pinterest!
There are thousands of girls in our community whose cups are waiting to be filled, not just with inspiration, but also with tangible examples of the possibilities that await them. What we pour into their cups is up to us.
I love when I’m out reporting across east Tennessee and a girl approaches me to say hi and is amazed by the camera, microphone, and lights. Often I tell them to take my microphone. Hold it. “This could be you one day if you want it to be.”
Girls who develop a strong sense of self early in life become young women who are strong and confident. Those young women then become amazing leaders in their early 20s and from there – the possibilities are endless.
My hope is that my daughter will see in me a grown-up version of herself. Just a girl trying to find her own way and doing what sparks her interests. Above all, a girl not worried about living up to anyone’s expectations but my own.