Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Defiantly Yours

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.


therhythmmethod said...

I love this. Fantastic.

Cat said...

I'd love to know your kids, seriously! This is interesting because it's something we discussed after watching the Ellberg (spelling?) doco on the ABC last night...you know, the dude who leaked the Vietnam war documents...and he had his kids help him photocopy the documents as a way of involving them in something he felt was very important and to teach them that sometimes authority figures don't have it right. The kids were 13, 11 and 10 I think and their Mum (ex-wife) was less than impressed. I actually think it's important to teach our kids to think for themselves and really, that often means defiance is necessary. Long bow I know but it's why I've always been so anti all those licenced toys and too much teev (as I know you are too!). I think they kill of imagination which is surely the flip side of thinking for themselves? But, I'm rambling and I'm also preaching to the converted so shall stop and sign off by saying, fab post, again! :)

stellaorbit said...

I cannot believe your lovely children were going to rip each other's heads off - I just cannot believe it!
She's a good one, your daughter. She'll go far.


Princess Truelove said...

Oh I totally get it, my two are very 'high-spirited' - which means I curse their defiance at times but am just as likely to champion their independent thinking!

It's funny how their rebellious spirit comes out in different ways. With Mr 4 it's about arguing the point, lawyer-like, to find a parental loophole. And he will press the issue until such a loophole makes itself apparent.Sometimes he doesn't seem to realise that there is a power/entitlement imbalance between himself and a parent. This makes me both annoyed and proud. (Especially as much of the time he his getting better at making the right kinds of behaioural choices).

Miss 2, while seeming more easy-going, lets things slide when it suits her, and is generally co-operative, until she's suddently NOT. She is less inclined to sweat(notice? the small stuff but will make it known when something displeases her. She had her first swimming lesson recently and howled in protest throughout. When I saw the similar-aged girl (also on her first lesson) jump into the pool and giggle through, I felt a twinge of envy as her parents beamed from the sidelines. But then I thought, although having a screaming banshee pierce the eardrums of everyone within the walls of this overly-heated, tropical indoor pool area is inconvenient RIGHT NOW, in the long run, I'm actually quite glad that she's not inclined to throw herself willingly into a body of water despite not being able to swim, and expect a nearby stranger to intervene should things go awry (or indeed, to have not considered the consequences whatever). Maybe it's good that she doesn't just compliantly follow instructions, especially in an environment where she doesn't feel safe or comfortable. I've always thought that it's funny how the very traits that so many people deplore in young children, are the same traits that turn them into strong, independent, confident individuals as adults. We expect kids to obey certain people without question (parents, teachers, etc) but then to question others (peers, people who would mean them harm - whoever they may be) but that's a big ask IMO and they need some time to figure out what's appropriate. In the mean time, I'd prefer to see that rebel fire in practice than have it extinguished at an early age. And I will remind myself of that (and this post) the next time I am doing battle with a 4 year old!

Ms Twitchy said...

The wearied travails of the brow-beaten parents are ultimately the world's gain aren't they? Having two challenging, yes, 'spirited', ever- questioning-authority children, (their Highnesses ;) ) I loved this post. Thanks x

geekymummy said...

I keep telling myself this since my almost 5 year old has been miss defiance since she could talk. Its a wonderful quality in a thirty year old woman, but an exhausting one in a preschooler!

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