A healthy dose of defiance is a fine thing. Especially when raising a daughter.
My daughter, on the surface, is the quintessential good girl. A child that a lazy teacher could easily miss as they deal with the "louder" personalities in the class. But underneath that good girl facade beats the heart of a rebel. And, while a spirit of rebellion is not the most convenient trait in a child, I am secretly glad and proud to find it lurking inside my only daughter.
Take the car trip down to Nana's today. I employed my best new strategy from my handy grab bag of parenting tricks for when the children are about to rip each other's heads off in the back row. The strategy involves yelling, threatening to pull over while still yelling, and finally pulling over. It gives me a chance to peruse the newspaper, breathe, and figure out which child has the strongest personality.
While on the surface my oldest child is the most likely to be perceived as the family rebel with his long wild curly hair and unconventional manner, it was he who first caved in to my demands. Points of fairness and principle were quickly brushed aside in the face of my willingness to wait it out. And his overwhelming desire to reach high tech central, otherwise known as Nana's house.
Not so for my daughter. She stared stonily out the window, unmoved by my ever more dramatic pronouncements. It was only when I finally declared my willingness to actually remove the entire family from the car if she did not accede that she finally and reluctantly agreed. But her principles were sorely offended, and she maintained a stony dignified silence for the rest of the car trip.
Once we pulled up, just in case I'd missed it, she pointed out to me that she had kept her hard won promise to keep quiet by not uttering a single solitary word. I acknowledged that she had indeed fulfilled the strictest interpretation of my requirements and also pointed out that this was not entirely necessary. She then got over herself and skipped off into the wonderland that is Nana's.
My daughter regularly displays this same quiet rebellion on the playground. While thankful that she will never be pop culture's much maligned (but secretly admired) Queen Bee, at the age of eight she is more than willing to swim against the tide without concern for the impact this may have on her popularity. At the age of fifteen I have little doubt that she will be organising letter writing campaigns and petitions, marching on parliament and without doubt will be a committed and vocal vegan. While I am bracing myself for the lectures that I will have to endure about my vapid consumerism, failed feminism, and general sold-out'edness, I am in an odd way looking forward to it.
While most parenting manuals do not list defiance as a character trait worth developing, in the long run do we really want kids who are not willing to question authority and act upon their principles. Let us hope that beneath the fairy dresses and butterfly wings, our daughters (and sons) are also developing the first flutterings of rebellion. While defiance may not be the most convenient trait - especially not in the car on the way to Nana's - more than likely a child in possession of this trait will one day make you a very proud parent.