If the recipe for creating little girls is, indeed, sugar, spice, and everything nice, then your measurements, my darling, are decidedly not equal parts. The truth is, you’re a little heavy on the spice. And you know what? I’m so glad.
When you stomp your skinny leg and put your hand on your hip. When your little eyebrows jet upward and your jaw sticks out. Oh, man. It can be difficult not to laugh or, at times, throw you out the window. It can make your dad turn beet red and rush out of the room to avoid the aforementioned window throwing.
But when you point out discrepancies and identify injustice, it makes me so proud. Sure, your major issues are often with my parenting, but I’m so happy that you’re willing to speak up for what you believe is right. It’s my job to make sure you know what that is, not to make sure people like hearing what you have to say.
In a world where new studies are released each day confirming gender bias and overwhelming discrimination, I have come to understand that you will already face enough challenges without having to second guess who you are, fundamentally or even biologically. That, just because you love pink and glitter and unicorns and ballet, it doesn’t mean you have to love being a mild-mannered princess. And just because you love ice cream more than your own family, it doesn’t mean you have to be sweet.
Just a few weeks ago, Psychological Science released a study showing that children between the ages of 4 and 9 are already demonstrating that the older girls participating would routinely refrain from negotiating with authority figures. These are the same little girls who will climb corporate ladders while navigating unwanted advances, internalizing shame and blame when they receive attention that they seemingly “asked for.”
Every time you see a cartoon where a wide-eyed little girl cares more about making everyone around her happy than she does her own feelings, you’re learning. You’re listening when a well-meaning neighbor tells you that you’re too pretty to be a witch for Halloween. You notice everything, including every time a strong woman is judged for what she is and who she isn’t.
This doesn’t mean that you can use that attitude to treat people without respect, or that you won’t have consequences for the things that leave your lips before you have a chance to think. But as I’ve started to keenly observe the way you use your words, I am impressed by your instincts and I hope to continue shepherding them in the direction of kindness, justice and truth — without a shadow guilt or expectation looming over them.
Because right now, my darling girl, you are everything that I wasn’t able to be for myself, in pivotal, perilous moments of my life. Where I wilted, the hesitant sunflower who needed other people’s shine in order to stand tall, you bloom regardless of who is looking, watching and waiting. Tall, rooted in your truth, unwilling to go quietly or to simply set aside your own feelings to spare someone else’s.
Your learning to-be-louder mommy
P.S. Please always remember which words we shouldn’t use in front of your grandparents — or at your very Catholic elementary school.