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.