I have a new obsession. No, it's not Kardashians, or even the Real Housewives of Something-or-Other, but someone of actual substance. Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old girl who actually stared down the barrel of a gun before it shot her in the head, all because she wanted an education. The weight of the world literally rests on this girl's shoulders as a representative of what Islam actually is, and how extremists hijacked her beliefs, warping them for violence.
As an avid news follower, I heard about the shooting, her fierce fight to stay alive, and then I just forgot. Her miraculous recovery has now surfed across the Atlantic, where it landed on NPR last week. It was there I heard her words. Honest words that only a teenage girl, despite seeing horrors I can't imagine, can still say with purity. Malala's voice is that of a girl's, her words are a giant's.
Before she was shot by the Taliban on the way to school, riding in the back of a truck packed with young girls, Malala was breaking "the rules" of these extremists by attending her father's school. She wrote about it, even after her life was threatened. She valued something, literally to death, that we take for granted every day -- an education.
"I have already seen death, and I know that death is supporting me in my cause of education. Death does not want to kill me. Before this attack, I might have been a little bit afraid of how death would be. Now I'm not, because I have experienced it."
Punch. To. The. Gut.
Those wise words versus this:
"I'm a freak. I want to come out of a teddy bear -- with a hand -- I'm just a freak. I don't think it's that I'm smarter than anyone else; it's not that I think, 'Oh, you don't get it.' It's just who I am and if I'm gonna perform, I want things around me that I like."
The second enlightened quote came from Miley Cyrus. One girl has 32 million followers, the other 91,000 followers Facebook.
I like a lot of Miley Cyrus' music; in fact, if you haven't heard her The Backyard Sessions, you haven't witnessed what her voice can do with the right lyrics. The girl garnered millions of fans playing Hannah Montana, someone they could look up to with her brilliant singing career and her relationship with her friends. She alienated millions more when she humped a teddy bear.
Mom and Dad are super uncool, so idols are expected of a hormone-driven teenager. New Kids on the Block rocked my 10-year-old world, Britney Spears made me covet, and Mia Hamm showed me I didn't have to be a girly-girl. It's normal to worship those with characteristics we want.
Question is, how do we get our children to listen to Malala's words and just dance to Miley's?
When my only daughter grows up, I picture her independent, smart, brave, and loving; the epitome of Malala.
Right now she loves to watch Barbie movies or Disney princess stuff, along with Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, letting me breathe easy.
I'm not even sure how to put someone like Miss Yousafzai on her radar, or when to explain what this girl went through, but I do know I've got to make her understand there are people worth following versus those who corrupt.
When Michael Martin interviewed Malala's father, he asked how Ziauddin raised such an inspired daughter. He replied, "You should not ask me what I have done, Rather you ask me what I did not do. I did not clip her wings to fly; I did not stop her from flying."
Being fairly positive, I'm not nearly the parent Ziauddin Yousafzai is with his whole, braving-death-to-teach- girls dreams, and my whole don't-talk-while-Grey's-Anatomy-is-on rules. Maybe with the mere introduction of girls like Malala, Elizabeth Smart, women like Michelle Obama, or JK Rowling, my kid actually stands a chance. I'd consider locking her in a tower if we could avoid a Justin Bieber thing. Shoot, I'd take Miley any day over her being a Bieliber.
Meg Sanders fell down the rabbit hole of motherhood four years ago quitting her job as a news producer. Now she spends her days grasping onto her sanity, striving to be a good person, and fighting the urge to eat her young. She can be contacted at email@example.com.