Down with Nice Girls!

I don’t want to raise “nice” girls.

Don’t get me wrong, I want to raise nice girls, where nice means respectful of self and others, responsible for one’s words and actions, considerate.

I also want to raise strong girls, girls with real voices, who know their minds and aren’t afraid to speak up, speak their minds. Girls who can assert themselves confidently.

I will admit I no more want to raise “nice” girls than I want to raise mean girls. I have a theory that mean girls are really “nice” girls in that in relationships with authority figures (teachers, coaches, parents, and so on) mean girls are nice. But in interactions with their peers, they are “nice”, which amounts to actually being mean.

I don’t want to raise children who apologize left and right (warning, graphic language ahead). I don’t want to raise girls who will be easy to “gaslight” (or, for that matter, who will pull that shite on others). I don’t want my girls to turn into timid women more afraid of being seen as a bitch than concerned about getting what they want or need—out of a job, out of a relationship, out of life in general.

A few rules for not-nice girls:

1. Not everyone has to like you. Believe it or not, there are worse things in the world than people not liking you.

2. Don’t be mean to people who don’t like you.

3. If people who don’t like you are mean to you, you are allowed to defend yourself. The trick is not to be mean in return. It’s not easy.

4. You do have to apologize when you hurt someone’s feelings. If you call Suzie a name, you can’t shrug it off as a joke when she calls you on it. That’s not Suzie’s issue; it’s yours.

4b. If, however, you mention that you’re not crazy about the color purple, and Suzie bursts into tears because her favorite color is purple, and cries, “I knew it! You don’t like me!” you don’t have to apologize for not liking purple. You don’t even really have to apologize for her getting upset, although it might be nice to say, “Even though I don’t like purple, I still like you.” Providing, of course, you really do like her. If you don’t, why are you pretending to?

5. Apologizing when you’ve made a mistake is a sign of strength. Apologizing to make the other person forget about the mistake is not. Apologizing preemptively or for situations not in your control is a sign of weakness. Don’t do the last two.

6. Stand up for yourself and what you believe in, and what you want. (Corollary: Know what you believe in and why, and what you want and why.)

7. Stand up for others.

8. Don’t be passive aggressive. It’s easy, easy, easy to do. Don’t do the easy thing.

What else would you tell girls so they grow up strong and true to themselves? And nice, but not “nice”?

Yuck

I did something the other day that I’ve never done before.

I put the kibosh on a shirt my 5-year-old daughter picked out.

We were at Target, and we were doing a little light shopping. We picked out some Valentine cards and treats for their parties on Friday, and I thought it would be nice if they each got a special little shirt, too.

In general, I let my kids pick things for themselves. Usually I give them two or three choices, just to make it easy. On this particular day, Dan was with Flora in the ‘girls’ section — not toddlers, which is where I was with Kate.

When I found them, Flora was holding a purple t-shirt, in her size, that said “YUM” on it.

And I said, “No, you can’t get that.”

Dan looked surprised; Flora was downright distressed. “But it’s my size,” she protested. “I know,” I answered, “but you have to pick another shirt in your size.”

I didn’t make a huge deal about it, but I did take it away from her and put it back. We picked out another shirt, and then Dan saw the Paul Frank shirts, and picked one of those out for her. We also got matching leggings.

I didn’t like the shirt because the message I saw on it was that my daughter was a consumable. That she was the something yummy.

And I am intensely disturbed by that.

I don’t want my daughter to be seen that way — especially when she’s only 5 years old. I imagine I’ll feel the same way regardless of her age. And I certainly don’t want my daughter to see herself as something to be consumed, either.

Am I making too big a deal of this? Would you have let your daughter pick out and wear this shirt? Where and when do we decide what is appropriate, and when do we let our children (not just girls) decide?

Further, how do we send the ‘right’ messages to our children? In other words, how do I enable Flora to either not pick the Yum shirt because of the message, or to pick it because she embodies the IRONY of the message? (Admittedly, not when she is 5 years old. She grasped sarcasm pretty quickly; I’m hoping she gets irony at least by the time she’s a teen.) Or is that latter point too much to ask? At any age?

Minor Bump

At breakfast on Thursday, Monkey asked, “Where am I going today?”

I told her to St. J’s and then to her dayschool (DS).

(I’m very lucky Monkey is an adaptable child. She goes three different places over the course of five days: Monday and Friday, she’s at DCL; Tuesday and Thursday, she’s at St. J’s till about 11 a.m., and then at DS; Wednesday, she’s at DS all day.)

Monkey’s response? “Yay. I like school.” What she said next stopped my heart: “I don’t like DS so much, though. The other kids are mean to me.”

I tried not to flip and yell, “WHAT??” Instead, I calmly (I think) asked what she meant, and who was mean to her.

She told me that “L” had started being mean to her. “She sings funny songs about me. And she won’t share the teeter totter with me.”

I advised her to ask L to stop doing whatever it was that bothered Monkey, or hurt her feelings. “And if she doesn’t, you can tell a teacher,” I said.

“Yeah. And R’s not my friend anymore. She plays with L now.”

On the upside, she picked a boy, N, to be her new best friend. On the downside, she’ll probably be off in a corner kissing him in another week or so.

I knew I would come up against this as the mother of girls. I’m kind of bummed it’s started already. I hope I can guide her through it. I am wondering if having Monkey tell a teacher is a good idea.

On the other hand, nothing makes you feel more like a mama bear than when your child is hurt — even when it’s “just” her feelings. I want to wade into that crowd of 4- and 5-year-olds and crack some heads.

That’s probably overreacting, though.

What would you do? What have you done?