When Jeanean Thomas' 6-year-old daughter Peyton walked up to the local skatepark, she felt a little uncomfortable. The park was full of teenage boys smoking and swearing, and all Peyton wanted to do was skate.
"Mom, it's full of older boys," she said.
Thomas was nervous too, but encouraged her daughter, saying, "So what, they don't own the skate park."
One of the older boys approached Peyton, and Thomas prepared to deliver her "She's allowed to use this park just as much as you guys speech."
What happened next surprised Thomas, and prompted her to later write an open letter to the young man, which has since gone viral.
Read the letter below:
Dear teenage boy at the skate park:
You’re probably about 15 years-old, so I don’t expect you to be very mature or for you to want a little girl on your skate ramp for that matter.
What you don’t know is that my daughter has been wanting to skateboard for months. I actually had to convince her that skateboarding wasn’t for just for boys.
So when we walked up to the skate park and saw that it was full of teenaged boys who were smoking and swearing, she immediately wanted to turn around and go home.
I secretly wanted to go too because I didn’t want to have to put on my mom voice and exchange words with you.
I also didn’t want my daughter to feel like she had to be scared of anyone, or that she wasn’t entitled to that skate park just as much as you were.
So when she said, “Mom it’s full of older boys,” I calmly said, “So what, they don’t own the skate park.”
She proceeded to go down the ramp in spite of you and your friends flying past her and grinding rails beside her.
She only had two or three runs in before you approached her and said “Hey, excuse me …”
I immediately prepared to deliver my “She’s allowed to use this park just as much as you guys” speech when I heard you say, “Your feet are wrong. Can I help you?”
You proceeded to spend almost an hour with my daughter showing her how to balance and steer, and she listened to you – a feat not attained by most adults.
You held her hand and helped her get up when she fell down and I even heard you tell her to stay away from the rails so that she wouldn’t get hurt.
I want you to know that I am proud that you are part of my community, and I want to thank you for being kind to my daughter, even though your friends made fun of you for it.
She left the skate park with a sense of pride and with the confidence that she can do anything, because of you.
This is what masculinity looks like.