We had to leave Chick Fil A when my daughter was nearly two for putting a bigger child in a choke hold trying to protect her older brother. The first Meet the Teacher we ever had for my daughter at Mother’s Day Out, a boy stole her toy, and after asking for it back unsuccessfully, she pushed him down and took it. This week, her teacher had to speak to me because she hit a child in her class while defending one of her friends. These incidents are spanned over several years and not the norm for her. Don’t get the wrong idea; my girl isn’t an overly aggressive child, she has a big heart and more compassion in her little finger than most adults I know. Kindness is woven into the fabric of who she is and of course, we address when she hurts someone. But look, I know my daughter hit your kid, and I’m not sorry.
I’m not sorry she protects herself, her family and her friends. I’m raising a tough, confident girl who will stand up for herself and others. She’s only three, so we’re working on her using her voice and not her fists but I love that one way or another, she will stand up for what is right and protect herself and her loved ones. I won’t apologize for that. In a world where we have a hashtag to represent the millions of people who have been abused and taken advantage of and in a culture where women still don’t have equality, we need to raise strong daughters. All of us.
We are nourishing her natural gentleness and teaching her patience, grace and how to bring joy and peace into this life. Like with any child, there is a learning curve about how to use her words and when to involve a safe adult when she needs back up. But one day, those words might not be enough. One day, someone might not listen to her words, one day someone might ignore her when she asks them to stop. She will know when words aren’t enough. She will know when it’s time to yell and scream and kick and fight when she has to.
My sweet girl was born with a naturally fiery spirit, like her mother, but over time our society will work to break it down. I know because I was born loud and passionate, but through the years, I’ve realized how much smaller I have made myself. Since having my daughter, when I feel the urge to shrink, I think of her and I shine instead. Sadly, it no longer comes naturally, I have to work at it. Fitting in, conforming, being polite, keeping the peace and acting the way a woman “should” is prioritized over women’s safety in our culture. Women are more likely to be people pleasers which can, in turn, quiet their voice and even put them in danger.
I don’t want my daughter to hit your child. Like all three-year-olds, she is learning not to hurt others. But I won’t apologize for my daughter defending herself; she is worth it. Right now, she loves herself, values her ideas and believes she is important. I am working every day, to nourish and support those beliefs. It is our job as mothers to teach our girls to speak up, to stand up and not to buy into society’s views of how women should be. We have to set the example.
Women who believe in themselves won’t look for someone else to solve their problems. Women who are taught to use their voice will be leaders, innovators, defenders of justice and raise more strong women. Women who are taught to be brave will protect themselves and others. Women who know their worth won’t stay with someone who hurts them, she won’t be unkind to others and she won’t stay quiet to keep the peace. Women who are respected will respect themselves and others. Women who believe in their own power will change the world. Don’t mistake our assertiveness for cruelty or our kindness for weakness. I won’t apologize for raising a woman.