I gave birth to a fierce tiny human. Actually, she was pretty fierce in utero, but she most definitely entered the world ready to take charge and be heard. She’s this tiny itty bitty thing, but so full of spunk and tenacity. Fearless and brave. Independent and willful. Determined and wild. While I love every bit of her spirit, her personality can also be incredibly challenging. I think my dad and husband are simultaneously laughing right now as they read this. Or anyone who knows me for that matter. I too have a fierce personality. Which really blows my mind when I think about it cause I swear to goodness she just came out a rebel. I didn’t do anything to make her this way. Does that mean fierceness is genetic? I legit failed physics in high school so my brain doesn’t mesh so well with science. What I do know for sure though is being fierce does not make it easier to raise fierce.
For starters, being fierce often comes with being misunderstood. I can’t tell you how many people mistake my assertiveness with the big B. Ya know the word used to describe females when they are perceived as too emotional or hormonal or shocker, speak their mind? I hate that word. I hate that I used to use it as term of endearment with my girlfriends. It’s not endearing. It’s insulting. And it only perpetuates the idea that women can’t own some of the same characteristics afforded men. A man speaks his mind and he’s labeled passionate or confident. A woman does it and she’s emotional or bossy. Shoot, even the word fierce can be used differently among the sexes. A woman is described as fierce and people think she’s angry or aggressive while a fierce man is seen as strong or bold.
I say all this not to start some debate about sexism, but simply because this is my life. I’m a strong, independent, fierce woman who has stumbled through life fighting for others to see the greatness in those qualities. Now I’m responsible for raising a second generation fierce lady and I’m terrified. Straight scared. I’m scared because I know how hard it is to live life as a woman in that way. I wish I could make it easier for her. I wish she could just be herself and be loved and be seen, but life is never that way for people who color outside the lines. Well, I take that back. There are plenty of people in this world that will see her and love her. There are just way more that will try to knock her off course. Try to make her fit in a box she’s too bold to stay inside. So how do I raise her to face the challenges and still come out the other side bolder, louder, and more wonderful than we ever thought possible? I have a few ideas.
- I will teach her to challenge stereotypes
Stereotypes are judgements. Making judgements is human. It’s innate. Our brain starts making judgements about anything and everything before we even realize it. The key is what you do with that information and I hope to teach my daughter that you can’t make assumptions about someone simply because they are different from you. The more she practices the grace of non-judgement, the more people will embrace her fierceness.
- I will teach her to show compassion always
Compassion is a response to the suffering of others that motivates a desire to help. Being fierce doesn’t only mean fighting for your own needs, but even more for the needs of others. I don’t know of anything more beautiful or more fierce than giving. Giving love and light in this world is desperately needed. I hope my daughter always feels empowered to use her voice to speak out against injustice and I will teach her to always show grace and kindness to others in need.
- I will teach her empathy
“Let no man pull you low enough to hate him.” –MLK
If there were ever a lesson in empathy, Dr. King’s words really hit it hard. Think about what he’s saying for one second. This man was pulled the lowest of low. He was hated. He died because someone hated him so much. And despite all that, he still loved. For me, showing love is fierce. It’s at the heart of equality. Sometimes though it can be really hard to show love when faced with hate. Our gut reaction is to meet our enemy with that same fire. Make them feel the same pain we felt. But what good does this do anyone? It certainly doesn’t breed progress. Empathy is a beautiful life lesson. If you can learn to walk in someone else’s shoes and truly try to imagine what their journey might feel like, then you can build the ultimate of relationships.
- I will teach her how to love herself
Yikes, this might be the toughest lesson for me to teach. Especially in our current world of waist training Kardashians and social media perfectionism. Oh, bodies. They are so hard to love. Fat talk is rampant and self-worth is so closely tied to the shape and size of our bodies. Don’t get me wrong, I too fall prey to the enormous pressure women feel to look beautiful. I’ve definitely been known to say “I look fat”. But mostly I firmly believe that beauty is so much more than what’s on the outside. And loving all of yourself, inside and out, only helps you become even more fierce. I will work harder at not shaming myself and show my daughter that my self-worth is not tied to the size of my jeans and hers shouldn’t be either. Ultimately though beauty is most present in our behavior and teaching her to be fierce through compassion, love, and empathy is the most beautiful thing she can ever do.
- I will teach her forgiveness
The number one thing I will teach my daughter is that we are human. And humans make mistakes. Even fierce ones. But there is such greatness in humans with humility. Forgiving each other our misgivings only fuels more love and compassion. I hope my daughter can learn to forgive those that hurt her and more importantly forgive herself her own faults along the way.
How do you raise fierce daughters (or sons!)? Teach me your ways!