I miss my daughter being little. Everything was so much simpler then. It was a lot of, “Wow she’s only 2? What a vocabulary,” or “Oh my gosh she’s a social butterfly how cute.” And a lot of, “Wow she’s precocious! You’re in for it.”
These traits that were deemed adorable when she was little, have now been labeled a problem.
Lately, the feedback is, “She’s unfocused. She’s a little odd. She’s in her own world. She’s too much of this or not enough of that.” But the feedback we get the most is, “She’s not a good listener.” I have come to absolutely hate this phrase. It’s peppered on the behavior tracker she carries to and from school.
In response to this frequent criticism her 6-year-old brain draws the logical conclusion that if she’s not good, she must be bad. Each time the phrase appears, she says, “Mom, I feel like I’m a bad person. I don’t know why I’m not a good listener. I feel like something is wrong with me.” My heart shatters, and my blood boils.
I was a good listener. The best listener. I won awards for my listening. Perfect conduct. I wouldn’t dare to break a rule. All that listening got me nowhere. I was quiet, self-conscious about speaking and sharing ideas, terrified to make a mistake, and just lost. It took years to undo this idea of a good girl that had been so frequently reinforced as my identity. Opening up and fighting loudly for what I want and need took a lot of life experience.
My daughter faces a different side of the same good girl struggle.
She is not me. She is not afraid, and she is not interested in perfection. She is so full of life and ideas and imagination that she can’t contain it. She’s not a good listener and she’s not a good girl. She isn’t bad either. She’s fully herself and she is amazing.
So, my lifelong task is to help her with this balancing act between respecting her teachers and mentors and being true to herself. Screw good and bad. Life and people don’t work that way. She will not learn to be a good girl, I will teach her how to use her amazing personality to be effective and powerful so that she can make this world a better place in whichever way she chooses.
About the Author
Sarah lives in Metairie with her husband of 9 years, Daniel, her daughter Lily, age 6, and her two pups, Sebastian and Riley. A former English teacher turned NICU nurse, she strongly believes in providing education and service to others. She is a lifelong learner and is happiest when she is pursuing a new degree or skill. On her days not spent at the hospital, you can find her reading, writing, or researching a new hobby. She loves a good art fair or a quiet coffee shop and lives for a good living room dance party with her family.