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Jen

Mermaid Warriors: An Interview with Mccabe Russell

Posted by Jen on March 25, 2009 at 7:00 AM in JenRaising Girls
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When I first discovered Mccabe Russell online, I knew this dancing mermaid would be just the person to encourage supersisters (and superdads) who want to see their girls grow creative and strong. McCabe is a self-taught artist who has dedicated her work to helping young girls feel good about themselves through art and creative play. In her mermaid camps, girls of all ages weave affirmations and poetry into art journaling, mixed media. homemade candles, and fairy jars to name a few. I asked Mccabe to tell us more about her mermaid warrior classes and what she knows now after fifteen years of creating safe space for girls to explore themselves while also learning the power of supporting others.

What is a mermaid warrior?

A mermaid warrior is a girl who is not afraid to be herself. She also supports her mermaid sister-friends~its all about encouraging each other through art and friendship.

What are your little mermaid friends telling you about what little girls need these days? Any tips for moms who are having trouble connecting?

What I hear most from my little mermaid students is that they need to feel understood. I think as adults we sometimes rush to find a solution or teach the lesson. These things are important and have a place, but it is equally important to just listen to what they are saying. When a tender issue arises, try to give them your undivided attention so that they know their feelings are valued. I have also found that even when a child is not ready to share, a simple, "I know it feels hard right now" can do wonders. Feel WITH them. We all want to feel normal and connected even in our hardest emotions.

Why do you think little girls are so drawn to the princess thing?

I think Disney plays a big part in that! I think it seems exciting and glamorous to them with all the pink tooling and handsome prince bouncing on a white horse. Being a princess seems to equal a happy ending. A part of me cringes when I hear a little girl say she wants to be a "princess when she grows up." I love fairy tales, but they often don't tell the whole story. I want girls to feel like they are beautiful without the costumes and drama...that they are perfect and enough in their everyday self.

We're all about ages and stages here on the supersister blog. In your experience, is there any difference between what a five year old or a ten year old mermaid needs?

The five year old mermaids (at first) need to be assured that they are doing it "right." They feel safe in knowing that their artwork and presence is approved by others. At the same time, they thrive in independence and love the opportunity to do so. I feel it is important to teach them the joy of doing art for yourself, whether it gets put up on the fridge or not. When asked my opinion on a piece of artwork I love to ask, "Do YOU like it?" Once they start school they begin comparing their art to other kids, and a piece of the magic gets lost. At the same time five year olds are very free and not afraid to ask questions or give new ideas.

Ten year old mermaids need to feel their uniqueness is honored and valued. Many of them are torn between wanting to establish their own individuality, and yet not feeling brave enough to be themselves. It is a tough pull, so 9 and 10 year old girls need extra encouragement and love in this area. This topic might not be regular dialogue between their peers, so getting them together to talk about these things is powerful and healing. They are so relieved when they discover they are not alone in their feelings.

One more. What drew you to this work?

I had a really hard time as a kid, especially around the age of twelve. So much was happening and I did not have anyone to talk to about it. It makes me sad that i carried all that shame around for all those years, and yet it is my superpower to help others in this special way. In my early twenties, I found an art healing class, and began the long journey back to myself. I kept thinking how great it would have been to have a class like that at twelve. Over time i discovered that my passion was being the person I needed as a child to other girls. It is empowering for everyone. Our pain has great power if used correctly.

Thanks, Mccabe!
Supersisters, leave a comment telling us the thing you love the most about raising girls. We'll send a special mermaid surprise to one lucky commenter.

21 Comments

Patience writes...

McCabe's work just makes me smile and feel so hopeful! It's pure goodness in the world...
I love the joy of femininity, and being "the girls" together. and dancing and twirling, lots of twirling. it's really fun.

Elaine writes...

I'm rearing up two girls am finding that the most delightful part of this journey is how they are with each other. When one is hurt, the other is genuinely concerned, crying right along with her sister. They are so nurturing, strong, insightful and empathic. I grew up with a brother and didn't ever share the kind of bond I see my girls share.

They are remarkable creatures!

Mariella writes...

Hooray for Mermaid Warriors and confidence, creativity, love, sisterhood, security, beauty, & fun!! :) xoxo, ~ M.

earthmama writes...

Thank you thank you thank you! YES! This is exactly what I needed while growing up with a single dad. I am filled with hope from this work!

Yours in sisterhood,
earthmama

Carmen Torbus writes...

What McCabe is doing is so worthwhile and awe inspiring. The girls whose lives she touches will always cherish this time and lessons learned.

Emma writes...

Great interview! I'm always inspired by Mccabe's work and sharing. Beautiful!

I don't have children (though I do have two girl-cats :), but I love kids and look forward to leading art and yoga classes with them in the near future.

Sarah writes...

Thanks for turning me on to a great new supersister!

Jen writes...

I love how silly their giggles get in one moment, but how strong their voices and will are in the next.

Kirsten Michelle writes...

This dancing mermaid is a dear friend of mine and I hope my daughter has the honour of meeting her in person one day.
For me, the thing I love most about raising a little girl is that she reminds me of the little girl I once was. I see in her limitless potential and I realize that I have the opportunity to nurture and protect that.

Kristen K writes...

Thank you for posting this interview. What an inspiration!

Sandra writes...

I feel blessed to have a daughter for many reasons. One is her love of art. Not sure how much of that is related to her being a girl, but she loves to create for long stretches of time, absorbed in it, and I love doing that along with her.
What lovely workshops McCabe has created - I wish she were closer by, I know my daughter would love them.

Kate writes...

Fantastic interview with McCabe, I am taking her class and its really great.

Kate

Megan writes...

This is such a great idea!

Michelle writes...

I love this interview! I stumbled upon the dancing mermaid in the past and am excited to be reminded and re-introduced to her artistic and inspiring spirit. I have four nieces who would love to attend mermaid warrior camp! I have a son (no daughters, yet!) and I think it's just as important to make him a warrior merman, who is not afraid to embrace and shine in his own creativity. I love the idea of teaching our children to be brave in their art and to believe in their own wisdom. So thank you!

angie writes...

Congratulations Mermaid Warrior! That was a fantastic interview and as always you hit the nail on the head about children and feelings. You are so special. Thank you for helping and guiding so many little up and coming mermaids..........Love, Angie

Tina writes...

I have 2 girls and what I love the most about raising them is teaching them to be confident about themselves and being gracious about it at the same time.

McCabe rocks!!!

Sarah writes...

It makes me so happy to know that Mccabe's talent and inspiration are spilling forth EVERYWHERE for everyone who needs it so much! She deserves much love along with tremendous personal success.

Dawn writes...

I love Mccabe. I've been following her blog for a while now. She's so in tune with herself and feelings. I'm basing my daughter's birthday party after her inspirations and mermaid camps.

nina beana writes...

i love the sweet, honest, raw moments that come during quiet time with my girl. i love when she opens up to me and tells me everything that's on her five year old mind.

thanks jen and thanks mccabe!

Lisa writes...

I love dancing mermaids blog and her great ideas. I did an artist camp for my grandaughters 8th birthday party she loved it. I also made some "sugar-free" cookies for my dad's 80th birthday party at the nursing home. (They were painted inspiration rocks). Everyone loved them. Thank you for sharing your life so that the ripple effect can be felt across the world.

Mercy writes...

I love this idea and this woman for doing this work. It's SO very important. And thanks PBS for being a platform for more people to find out about this work.

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