We Can Do It!

Raising kids with a “can do!” attitude…

My awesome daughter. Photo Credit: David Venezia

Ever since Kat could walk, we’ve been getting our hands dirty. We build, we dig, we collect, and we examine. We try to see problems as challenges and questions tend to invite ideas and quests to find answers. Of course, we all have our strengths and weaknesses, but we’re always seeking to build our skills and improve our outlooks. I’ve wanted Kat to grow up feeling empowered, capable, and confident. So far, she has had little trouble powering through and looking for the next fun thing.

Which is why I was so surprised when we began our last learning adventure. We were having some issues with our car, and we needed to get some routine maintenance done. I figured that we could save a little bit of money by doing some of the work ourselves. We would start with checking our power steering fluid and changing our air filter. As I was watching a video tutorial on YouTube, Kat turned to me and with all seriousness, said, “Mom, what are you doing? Girls don’t work on cars!”.

I was shocked! Girls DO work on cars, I’ve worked on cars! Where did she get this idea? I stopped the video and asked her what she meant. She repeated her statement with the same sincerity. I promptly grabbed the keys and said “let’s go!” and we drove off to the nearby auto store.

As we walked through the tool isle, I pointed out the tools that we had at our house and we examined the ones that she hadn’t seen before. We looked at different ratchet sizes and socket heads, screwdrivers and voltmeters. We talked about what each tool might be used for, and how some tools make things much easier (a ratchet and socket compared to a wrench). Then we set off to get some help finding our air filter.

Once we had our supplies, we set to work! I showed Kat how to set up the funnel in our power steering fluid housing, then I showed her how to check to make sure the fluid levels were correct. Then it was time to get to the air filter. After re-watching the tutorial, I popped the hood and feigned ignorance as to where the air filter housing was. Kat was really excited to be able to find it before me!

Once we located the screws, I gave Kat a reminder of the old “righty-tighty, lefty-loosey” rule and handed her the screwdriver. When we were finally able to pull the housing off and remove the air filter, we were greeted with a well worn, quite disgusting air filter. We put our replacement filter in, tightened the screws, and celebrated our little victory. I looked at Kat and said “See? Girls DO work on cars, YOU worked on a car!” At this, she beamed with pride and we headed out to lunch.

The rest of the day was filled with conversations about women and how their roles have changed over the years. For a long time, women were not considered among the ranks of doctors, scientists, veterinarians, or mechanics (to name a few).ย  Women often stayed at home, and their participation in society was left at the house. But ideas change, societies evolve, and now PEOPLE are doctors, people work on cars, and people look at the world, think about things, and try to figure it all out. Whether or not you can do something is no longer predicated on being a man or a woman, it’s dependent on whether you want to devote the time to learn, practice, and TRY.

In the course of these conversations, Kat revealed the reason why she didn’t think women worked on cars, even though she had sat out with me while I tinkered with ours. She said, “well yeah, I’ve seen YOU do it Mom, but I’ve never seen any other girls do it”. I thought that was fairly reasonable, after all, one of the first ways to gather evidence about anything is through observation. I smiled as I pulled up my Facebook thread where there were plenty of girls commiserating with Kat’s dilemma and sharing their own stories of working on cars. We even found out about a local girl built auto repair shop in Phoenix! By the end of the day, Kat had learned about empowerment and had experienced the solidarity of women breaking personal barriers and accomplishing their own triumphs.

A week later, I found myself reminiscing over our day of girl power. I remembered the auto repair shop and wondered if they might be willing to show Kat around. I called 180 Degree Automotive Inc., and shared our story with Bogi Lateiner, the owner. Bogi had started out fixing cars in her driveway with little more than a box of tools. Her hard earned successes led her to purchase the building that would become 180 Degree Automotive. She now runs a local business friendly auto repair shop that focuses on empowerment by hiring excellent qualified staff (mostly women!) and giving FREE classes to women to learn how to change their tires, check their fluids, and give tips on routine maintenance on their cars.

When I shared our story with Bogi, she invited us to come to her shop and take a tour, meet the staff, and have some girl talk with car talk. Kat was thrilled at the prospect that she would actually get to meet other girls who work on cars! When we walked in, we were greeted by a gorgeous and inviting lobby (free gourmet coffee!) with a huge wall adorned with photographs of women working on cars, motorcycles, even airplanes!

After a tour of the facility, Kat was able to meet some of the mechanics. One of them, a woman named Angel, shared her story of being allowed to come in and observe the mechanics working in the shop. Every day before school, she would come in and watch, asking the master mechanic questions and learning about the intricacies of different cars. After a while, she was hired on and has worked there (and loved it) ever since. As we watched her work, she brought out various tools and showed them to Kat while explaining how they worked. It was a pleasure for both me and Kat to watch the mechanics as they talked tools and fixed cars.

Overall, this experience has been incredible for Kat’s independence and confidence in herself as a growing girl. It was neat to see how one simple sentence could lead us on such a road to discovery. It has marked a new beginning where she gets to independently realize her own triumphs and accomplishments. This was a fantastic opportunity to realize that we really can do whatever it is that our hearts desire. Whether it’s working on cars, working with computers, discovering through science or exploring with art, we can choose if we want to devote the time to learn, practice, and master something. Whatever it is that we devote ourselves to, we can do it!

Happy Exploring!


  1. Nice post! That's very inspiring post. I would like to give it a second read.

  2. That's really cool that you run the Lego Robotics team in your school! There are a few robotics teams in our local schools, but Kat is too young for them at this age (she just turned 7) and many of them are for the students in a particular school.

    There are, however, robotics summer camps and workshops, these tend to fill up FAST. The Arizona Science Center is offering a Lego Robotics winter camp, and it filled up within the first day!

    I'll keep looking around for different engineering opportunities for her. She really likes to build things (we made robots a while ago out of old electrical components and she still makes new ones) and I would love to encourage that.

    Thank you so much for the response and for encouraging kids to explore and create with robotics. Great job with encouraging girls to pursue their passion in science and engineering, the more positive role models, the better! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. I teach computer science in high school (in Southern NH, if you're ever interested in relocating! 8^), and I run the school's FIRST Robotics Team. I can understand the "girls don't do that" attitude, because I see it all the time. (As a software engineer in a past life, I ran into this attitude a LOT!) So I consider it a personal quest to change it, by seeking out and encouraging the young ladies who appear to have the spark for curiosity and desire to โ€œbreak the rules.โ€ It helps to have influence in both the classroom and extracurricular activities.
    Which reminds me (warning โ€“ shameless plug approaching), get your daughter involved in FIRST Robotics! By the photos she looks like sheโ€™s in the FIRST LEGO League age group (9-14 years), but then she can graduate to high school FIRST Robotics. (A lot of teams accept homeschoolers; some teams exist primarily for them!) If youโ€™re not familiar with it (www.usfirst.org), this is an amazing program that teaches young people about engineering in ways that a classroom canโ€™t. And it can be a great experience for both of you!

  4. Kat is lucky to have you for a mom. Kudos!

  5. I was recently in New York City and got to see a fantastic installation by the artist Judy Chicago called The Dinner Party:

    It consists of a large triangular table with 39 place settings of mythical and historical famous women, under each place setting one could find the names of other women they influenced. It is a great collection of female history. It is a good place to start ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. As a girl who loves driving cars and does most of her own maintenance (and emergency tire changes!) – what an awesome story! Sounds like you handled it beautifully, and what a great learning experience for your daughter!

    When she gets a bit older, see if she has an interest in learning how to drive stick – THAT is an empowering feeling, too! ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. You are an awesome mama. I hope I'm that awesome when I have kids.

  8. Who knows, we could end up with "A People's History of Science and Discovery"! ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. That is a great point! One of the things I would like to start doing is looking up various women who have had great roles in change and discovery. Marie Curie Jane Goodall, and Dian Fossey immediately come to mind as passionate people who have worked hard and advocated for change. I've been directed to a list of female Nobel laureates to look to; I think it would be fun and important to have positive role models of different types.

  10. Great post, I love your pragmatism! People often ask me "how do we get girls/women more interested in technical things?" and I think the answer is doing just as you have done here ๐Ÿ˜€ Thank you!

    A little thought that occurred to me, and something I've come to realize through self-studies of different subjects that I'm interested in. Although, as you have stated in your post:

    "For a long time, women were not considered among the ranks of doctors, scientists, veterinarians, or mechanics (to name a few). Women often stayed at home, and their participation in society was left at the house."

    Many women did break those stereotypes and went ahead and did all those things, and found ways around all those rules, but we tend to forget about them because our story writers don't seem to care so much about it. That is how strong scientific/artistic curiosity has been in women ๐Ÿ™‚ I try to remember those women and tell their stories to people so they are not forgotten.

    Again, thank you for a great post

  11. Oh my god! This is the best! ๐Ÿ˜€ Parenting at its finest. Thank you for doing this!

  12. I love this so much!! You are amazing! Your little girl is going to be brilliant at whatever she does, I can tell ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. What a great post and what a great mom! Thanks for sharing!

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