When my daughter was very little, a teacher called her sassy. "She can be a little much," she warned. "Just something to look out for."
I replied politely, "Yes, I'll look out for it." I smiled as I walked out of the room and thought, I'll look out for it. And I'll welcome and cultivate it.
Because I decided a long time ago that I refuse to raise a polite daughter.
I am a people pleaser. My daughter is not.
Where I am measured, my daughter is unrestrained.
Where I am diplomatic, my daughter is honest.
I have spent years learning how to stand my ground, speak my truth and not apologize for myself. I agonize over whether or not I said the right thing or spoke too much or revealed too much. I have spent the better part of my adult life unlearning conditioned behaviors—smile, be sweet, go along—enforced by a culture that teaches women that our value is defined by the way other people see us.
My daughter speaks her mind. My daughter is loud. My daughter does not censor her thoughts. My daughter makes people uncomfortable with her occasionally tumultuous emotions. My daughter is perfect.
And as much as our culture thinks I should, I refuse to try to change her.
Must she be respectful? Yes. Kind? Absolutely. Polite? I'm not sure.
Because the idea of politeness goes beyond pleases and thank yous (which we do ask our children to say). For girls and women, politeness also includes ensuring that we make other people comfortable. We do this by smiling when we are angry (or quite frankly, just don't feel like smiling), by being friendly when we are annoyed, by putting others first when our own needs are screaming at us, by talking quietly when our inner voice is raging, by playing small when our ideas are huge, and hundreds of other ways our society has decided that good little girls should act.
Well, I am not raising a good little girl. I am raising a person.
A poet. A warrior. A fashion designer. A scientist. A dancer. A space-taker-upper. A change-maker. A demander of fairness.
A loud, fiery, in-your-face girl.
I will not teach my daughter that she needs to morph into a watered-down version of herself to make other people more comfortable; that the needs of other people are more important than her own. To put it plainly, other people's comfort is not her responsibility.
When she talks back to me, I won't tell her to stop; I'll teach her how to hone her argument.
When she apologizes for needing something, I'll tell her to say it again, this time louder and without the apology.
And when someone else tells me that she's sassy, I'll say, Thank you, we're trying.
So, to my loud, fiery, in-your-face girl, I know the world wants you to act a certain way. You'll grow up facing messages everywhere you turn, trying to tell you how to act, eat, dress and be on this earth.
And it's scary. To exist in a world that tells you that you, as you are, are wrong.
But you know what's scarier? You, my darling daughter. You, with all your fire and zest, are the scariest thing they've ever seen—because you, and the millions of girls just like you, are going to change the world.
And I am so proud of you.
For all the fierce little girls out there and the mamas who love them...