In a gender-coded world, where we’re just beginning to blur the categories between self-identifying “girls” and “boys” in the store aisles, I (for one) think we need to be more thoughtful about how we frame the budding personalities of our children. My daughter, who is now eight, is most interested in communicating her strong point of view. She always has something to say, and has never shied away from sharing how she thinks things should be run in the world. In short, she fits the description of a "strong-willed girl" (a term I'm still not entirely sure I understand or is even a real thing) and as the apparent parent of a strong willed-girl, there are things I'm tired of hearing.
I get a lot of “he’s such a boy” comments from people who spend time with my five-year-old son. Suppressing annoyance, I gently correct them. “He’s a kid,” I say. He’s curious, has energy, and likes to make explosion sound effects on the regular. A lot of boys do that. A lot of girls do that. I don’t really think it has anything to with his genitalia or the gender he currently identifies with. Alas, my son is told he fits the "boy mold" and my darling daughter is labeled "strong willed", because she voices her opinion with little remorse. Studies show most girls are as eager to voice their opinions as their male peers at this age, so my daughter is pretty "normal".
My daughter is considerate and well-mannered for the most part, but she has her fair share of outbursts and tantrums. She calls me on my sh*t (like passionately demanding that I stop interrupting her) and reminds me, rather loudly, how unfair I make things for her (because there are only so many hours a week I am willing to dedicate to arranging and attending playdates). She toggles between euphoria and devastation; life is amazing and terrible and not once has my daughter kept those feelings to herself.
Which is why I think calling my daughter “strong-willed” is way off-base. She’s a third grader trying to figure out this weird world and its sometimes illogical rules (“Why won’t you buy us Pringles? They never expire!”). She’s got questions, and demands answers with a passion and enthusiasm I, honestly, love and admire and hope continues. I really wish people would stop remarking on her behavior as if it were a negative thing to want things to go your way. We all want things our way; she’s still figuring out the best tactics to make it happen.
But until the term “strong-willed” is kicked to the curb, here are a few things us parents of strong, passionate and unapologetically unique girls are tired of hearing: