She was the baby who almost wasn’t.
When I was seventeen weeks pregnant with her, I was in a devastating head on car accident. The relief my husband and I felt when we saw her heartbeat, wild and strong, at the hospital where I was treated was palpable. Our girl was a fighter.
She came to us tiny and unsure. Often wary of strangers, she’d cling to me in social situations. The irony of her being born into a raucous and boisterous family was not lost on us. Many a family gathering found me cuddling her in a quiet bedroom because the noise and the crowd was more than she could handle. Shy and inquisitive, quiet and introspective, she was everything I am not from the very beginning.
As I watched her grow, I noticed she was content to let her extroverted brother do the talking and she was more than happy to play independently most days. Rarely, did she ever protest (well, except during the entirety of her three-year-old year).
I always worried that my shy girl wouldn’t find her voice.
Oh, I knew she’d make friends and I knew that her personality blossomed once a stranger was no longer unfamiliar but, as a woman who is outspoken and has an opinion on everything, I struggled to find the right ways to parent her. I wondered if she’d always be my opposite. Was it possible that my daughter didn’t inherit my extroverted ways and my love of debates?
Learning to parent an introverted child hasn’t been easy. Understanding that social situations are stressful and her need to skirt the spotlight has been a tough lesson for me. As she grew into her teen years, I secretly worried she’d let people bulldoze her, that she’d choose to stay quiet rather than engage in a confrontation when it really mattered.
However, I learned recently that I have underestimated my girl.
She found her voice in a big, public way.
And it left me speechless.
A fight broke out in her 6th grade classroom, over what, she was unsure. The teacher yelled and screamed to gain control, the boys involved were bloodied, the room was chaotic. She was scared, she said. I would have been, too.
Rather than use the fight as a teachable moment, the teacher yelled at my daughter’s class. She told them that they were all responsible for the fight because they hadn’t reported the boys for bad behavior in the past. Adding insult to literal injury, the teacher asked each student to write her a letter, detailing which kids were the bad apples in the basket.
As my daughter detailed the story, I could feel my blood start to boil. My instinct was to fire off an angry email to the teacher and I said as much to her. “You don’t have to fight this one for me, Mom. I did it myself,” she said, boldly.
My daughter, my shy 12-year-old girl, defied her teacher with just nine words: “I refuse to rat out my classmates. Good day.”
As I stood openmouthed in my kitchen, listening and trying not to speak, she said told me she proudly signed her name to her letter, even though the students were given the opportunity to remain anonymous.. “I don’t know why you are surprised, Mom. I’ve watched you stand up hundreds of times.” I was dumbfounded. All this time, I assumed we were opposites. But I was wrong. She was quietly watching and learning. My eyes filled with tears.
“Something broke inside of me, Mom,” she said quietly. “I reached a point where I couldn’t stay silent. What our teacher was asking us to do was wrong and unfair.” Her hazel eyes looked at me in consternation and I had to stifle a laugh because she looked so serious.
Whether it was the injustice of being blamed for a fight or the notion that she was expected to look for the bad in the people around her, she’s not sure what made her decide to take a stand. But she did and I couldn’t be more proud.
And while we had a conversation about respecting teachers and finding the right channels to raise her voice, my heart swelled that day in my kitchen. Not because she’d challenged her teacher, but because I knew that, when pushed hard enough, my daughter knows her limits.
She knows when she’s had enough and she’s finding her voice to say so.
She is my girl, after all.
It’s just taken her longer to figure out what she has to say.
And she started with “Good day.”