As school starts up again, I can begin to feel the looming chaos of schedules, homework, and carpools. But before bracing for what’s ahead, I want to look back, because it was anything but a Cruel Summer (sorry I had to do it). Between Taylor Swift and Barbie it was all about girl power this summer. It swept the country and boosted local economies; however, the power and impact of these two women goes way beyond the insanely high ticket prices, long lines, and merchandise. My daughter and I saw Barbie in the theater and the next night had the amazing opportunity to see Taylor Swift at Levi Stadium. The weekend was not planned this way but easily became one of my favorite weekends, and one I won’t soon forget.
I am often looking for ways to turn tough lessons into teachable moments; however, Barbie and Taylor Swift taught me those teachable moments can also be found in fun moments. One thing that struck me waiting in the lines for both events was the unexpected camaraderie or connection they provided. For Barbie most people were dressed in pink and conversations were about your favorite Barbie or what Barbies you had growing up. For Taylor Swift, everyone was in the costume of their favorite “era” and trading homemade friendship bracelets. The crowds were happy to be there and ready to have a good time. It struck me how much we want to rally around something we can feel good about, and it’s hard not to feel good about Taylor Swift or Barbie. The teachable moment was that sometimes we all just need to let our hair down and sing our hearts out.
Social media has made growing up harder, especially for girls. We see the research on its negative effects on girls’ self-esteem and body image, so it was so nice that both events were full of girl-positive messages. Both also had strong messages of empowerment.
Barbie makes us believe that a world run on kindness, compliments, and unity is possible, while Swift speaks of finding your truth — when life and love aren’t always easy, it is important to know your worth. They also both had mother-daughter connections. Swift’s biggest fan is her mom and her parents come every night to the show and walk to their seats before the show starts. She thanked her mom at every show, making it “cool” to recognize the importance of your mom. Barbie highlighted how messy mother-daughter relationships can be but also the power of a mother’s love. One of my favorite lines in the movie came near the end when Ruth, the creator of Barbie, says, “We mothers stand still so that our daughters can look back and see how far they’ve come.” Maybe they look back and see the sacrifices we made or the worry in our eyes, but I hope they also see that all we want is for them to realize their potential and be happy.
After watching Taylor Swift tickets prices climb for months, I determined that it was just too much money to spend on a night. Knowing how much it would mean to my daughter, my husband bought the tickets and surprised us both. He knew what a special night it would be, and I came full circle, so grateful for having been able to share that weekend with my daughter, who is a senior this year, so special mother-daughter moments seem fleeting.
What I came to realize is when your 17-year-old daughter wants to go to a concert with you, and is so excited that she is planning your outfit and making you a playlist, you say yes and go all in. It can sound cliché to say certain memories are priceless, but this one truly was. The memory of her excitement and pure joy for all 3.5 hours of the concert is something I want to stick with me forever. If you have teenagers, you know moments of pure fun with no eye rolls or talking back can sometimes be hard to come by, so when you get one, let alone two, in one weekend, it is a real treat.
I hope the impact these two women have doesn’t get lost with the end of summer. We could all use more reminders that we can be anything, we can work to change the world in different ways and that living in the “real world” is better than chasing an impossible perfect world. To my daughter, Madison, thank you for letting me see these two events with you and through your eyes. Thank you for turning me into a “Swiftie” and for helping me look at and understand “Barbie” in a whole new way.
Liz Farrell is the mother of three children and the founder of TechTalks, a consulting group to help schools and families have productive conversations around social media and technology. Email: [email protected].