Whether she’s tearing across the soccer field, sticking a near perfect landing in a gymnastics routine or training for an upcoming swim meet, Phoebe Root is always on the go. As her father, David, shuttles his active 12-year-old daughter to and from meets, games and competitions, he almost can’t believe it’s the same girl who, at 8 weeks old, was diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening liver disorder.
“Looking back at how sick she was, I never would have guessed our lives would end up feeling so… normal,” says David, as he drove his daughter to an afternoon swim practice. “When she was sick, we were so focused on the details of her illness that we couldn’t see the big picture. Now that we’re living in that picture, and it feels great.”
Shortly after her birth, Phoebe was diagnosed with biliary atresia, a rare disorder that prevents bile ducts in the liver from draining correctly, causing a potential fatal buildup of toxins in the body. The diagnosis led the Root family to Boston Children’s Hospital for treatment. Once there, Phoebe’s doctors made several attempts to treat her failing liver, but no matter what they tried, nothing seemed to fully alleviate her symptoms. After six months, it was clear that her best chance at survival would be a liver transplant. She was placed on the organ donation list, and David and his wife, Amy, prepared themselves for a difficult wait in their Maine home.
Q: My daughter just posted a plea on her Facebook wall asking for help finding quality TV shows for elementary-age girls (my granddaughter is 7). I know she has been frustrated by the shows her daughter currently watches, as she believes the female characters act cruelly to each other, and she’s concerned about how this kind of messaging affects her daughter. I think she is looking for both show recommendations and if there is a way that she, and other parents like her, can influence what is presented on TV.
~ iGranny, USA
A: Dear iGranny,
Your daughter’s question is one with which many parents struggle when searching for developmentally optimal content that features positive, inspiring role models with whom their children can relate. The issue becomes even deeper when specifically looking for positive portrayals of women and girls in children’s media, as female characters have historically been underplayed or portrayed as weak, sexualized or mean-spiritedly competitive with other female characters. Research has repeatedly shown that these portrayals of female characters can negatively influence how young girls view their bodies and gender roles, yet even today, these negative stereotypes can be found in many movies and TV shows.
You and your daughter are not alone in wanting to guide your granddaughter toward media that will be enlightening, empowering and uplifting for her. Although it may seem daunting, you have come to the right place – there are many practical steps you can take when seeking and selecting media for your granddaughter:
“I love working with Brooke and her mom. They are a great pair, and Brooke has grown into a wonderful, independent young woman who can advocate for herself. She went from being a sweet kid who couldn’t walk five steps without pain to this vibrant college student who treks over here from Northeastern University, bringing me a latte, ready to conquer the world,” says Dr. Kate Ackerman, medical director of Boston Children’s Hospital’s Female Athlete Program.
Brooke Lombardi, her mother Shari and Ackerman have a pretty special relationship. Brooke, who grew up in Miami, started seeing Ackerman in 2010 when she was 15. Today, Ackerman helps Brooke, a college student who continues to have minor medical issues, navigate the health care system, helping to provide a safety net for a young adult far from home.
For Jonathan Reed, summer fun goes way beyond wave riding along New England beaches. During a recent weeklong family vacation to Universal Studios in Florida, the Rhode Island fourth-grader visited wave pools at a water park, rode gravity-defying roller coasters and sprinted from one fun-filled attraction to the next.
This dream vacation may not have been as magical if Jonathan had to continually battle ongoing stomach pain.