March 15, 2013


Mothers and daughters can ‘get on the same page’

Retreat, in its 30th year, set for April

RetreatJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
From left, Mimi Thomas, Mary Dykeman and intern Katie Hebert reminisce over past mother-daughter retreat photos at the Cortland County Office Building March 7. The trio will be facilitators at the “Mother-Daughter Retreat on Growing Up” in April.

Living and Leisure Editor

Mary Dykeman said the world for girls has changed dramatically in the last 24 years she’s been working the mother-daughter retreat.
In her early years, she would show a video of a man showing up at a park on a motorcycle, where a young girl, who does not know him, hops on the back and the two drive off.
“Kids live in a completely different world. They know to never go with a stranger,” Dykeman said. “They are in some ways not as innocent as they were when I started doing the retreat 24 years ago. They have been exposed to much more,” she said.
The public health educator for the Jacobus Center for Reproductive Health said this year’s Mother-Daughter Retreat on Growing Up, which is in its 30th year, will once again offer a time for moms and their daughters to talk about puberty, bullying, self-esteem and other issues.
“After 30 years, people still want the retreat to happen. Mothers still want a day to spend with their daughters. I find that so special,” said Dykeman.
The retreat is set for April 13 at the United Presbyterian Church, 25 Church St., Cortland. It is geared for fifth- and sixth-graders. Small fee. The program is limited to 15 families so sign up by the April 5 deadline. Call 607-753-5088.
Dykeman, Mimi Thomas, a Jacobus Center registered nurse for 19 years who has attended the event with both her daughters, and Katie Hebert, a SUNY Cortland intern, will lead the event, which runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Snacks and lunch will be provided.
“It’s much tougher to be a girl,” said Dykeman. “They grow up so much faster and I don’t think that’s necessarily a good thing. I think 24 years ago their parents were their primary person they’d go to. I think now they are still important, but they’re bombarded by TV, Internet, cyber information.”
“I think young girls need to find a best friend in their mother,” said Hebert, 22, who will graduate in May with a Bachelor of Science degree. “My mom has always been my best friend and I have always asked her questions when I was younger. She has always been there for me — a constant reminder that I am perfect in who I am.”
Elaine Lambert, director of the Jacobus Center, took her daughter, Rachel Perry, to the retreat when she was a 10-year-old. She also led the retreat one year.
Her daughter was apprehensive about spending the day and “what are we going to do for that long,” Lambert recalls. “She loved it. ... She felt really moved by parts of it,” she said. Especially the point when moms said what they appreciated the most about their girls and the girls reciprocated to their moms.
“We were pretty open to begin with. It still gave her the words to start conversations,” Lambert said. And her daughter could talk with her friends about puberty issues more easily.
“Girls want to know they are normal,” Dykeman said. “Girls are worried about this process. Girls need encouragement to be strong and independent. ... They need to know they need to be valued for who they are and not what they look like. That still has not changed.”
“There’s a place in the day where I take the moms and Katie and Mimi take the girls and talk about menstruation. The moms and I talk about a variety of topics they need to start talking to their daughters about,” Dykeman said.
Videos, interactive games, charades will be used.
“We are doing a fish bowl exercise in the afternoon. Katie and I and Mimi sit with the girls in a circle and talk about what its like being fifth or sixth grade girls. The moms watch and can’t interact or butt in. They have to listen.”
And cell phones will be off.
“This is face-to-face communication, not through a cell phone. This is look in my eye and tell me what you are thinking and same with the moms. People don’t do that anymore,” Dykeman said.


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