One day, not long ago, my daughter went down a slide and rammed right into the back of an older child who had gone down the slide before her. It really hurt, the boy was quick to tell me, and my daughter should probably apologize for it. I agreed and turned to her, saying “Mae, can you say you’re sorry?”
Her response? To stare defiantly at both of us. She stared so long, in fact, that it got down right uncomfortable. So, feeling the need to avoid confrontation at all costs like the good born-and-bred midwesterner that I am, I told the boy, “she’s pretty young, she probably doesn’t understand, but I’m sure she’s very sorry.”
The incident was soon forgotten by the kids and they went back to playing because, ah, youth. But it stayed with me. This wasn’t the first time she had reacted this way when asked to apologize for something. It was then that I realized my 2-year-old daughter refuses to say she’s sorry. For anything.
And part of me doesn’t want that to change.
Last week for dinner, we had spaghetti and meatballs. Every morning since then, whenever I ask her what she wants for breakfast, she yells “meatballs!”
“Meatballs? Really?” I respond.
I don’t want this to change either.
Now that my kids are two and four, life has pretty much devolved into one long WWE match occasionally interrupted by baths and trips to the library. When her brother hits her, my daughter does a feral growl and hits him right back. When they argue, she doesn’t back down. When he gets angry, she doesn’t demur or try to smooth over the volatile situation. If someone is pushing her or pulling her or tickling her in a way she doesn’t like, she loudly screams “NO!” and “STOP!”
Minus the hitting, I hope to God none of that ever changes.
At 2-years-old, she cares nothing for your opinion. Or mine. At 2-years-old, there is no piece of furniture, no piece of playground equipment, no object in nature (including large, slow-moving animals) that is too high to climb and conquer and then jump off of. If it were up to her, she’d be naked all the time. Because at 2-years-old, her body is her own wonderland.
As her mother, this is all pretty exhausting to deal with on a day-to-day basis. As a woman, however, it’s exhilarating to watch.
All too soon, despite my best interventions, the world is likely to teach her that she needs to change these things about herself. That she should apologize for taking up space. For getting angry. For even daring to have an opinion.
The world will start whispering to her that her body is not her own anymore. That those mountains are not hers to climb and conquer anymore. That being pretty and nice is better than being loud and fearless and strong and curious.
That yogurt is an acceptable breakfast. Not huge chunks of meat.
Then again, maybe not. Because I’m watching. I’m taking notes. My young daughter is teaching me how to be a female in this world, the kind of female I want to be. And my hope is that I learn enough so that I can return the favor. That when she’s a young woman and the world is trying to crush her into some shape, some role, she doesn’t fit into, I’ll be there to remind her who she really is.
And then when some poor soul makes the mistake of telling her “stop being so bossy” or “hey, smile!” or “you know, you could be prettier if only you’d…” she laughs so hard in their face that she almost chokes on her breakfast meatball hoagie.