My daughter is 5, and she’s a badass. And I’m not just saying this because I’m her mother. When she falls down, she often just brushes the blood off and keeps on playing. This year, she was the only girl on her soccer team and she scored most of the goals. She always sticks up for herself on the playground when there are 5-year-old injustices that occur. And once, while picking her up from preschool, she was royally ticked off because none of the boys would let her participate in a running race. I later found out that it was because she kept beating them.
Being a badass isn’t always easy. It comes with some strong opinions and some big emotions, and I will probably get to know her kindergarten teacher very well next year. But we want to send her out into the world still hanging onto all of those skills that she naturally has. She uses her voice. She tells us when we are wrong. She never apologizes needlessly.
I’m 40, and I’m still working on most of these things. So here are some ways that we are going to make sure she stays a badass:
1. We encourage her to speak for herself.
She orders for herself in restaurants and talks to other grownups like a human, and we help her be the one to communicate with her teachers if something is bothering her.
2. We celebrate dirt and bugs and every other gross thing.
I have never screeched when a spider lands on me, and thus she’s learned that all bugs are pets and help me.
3. WrestleMania happens nightly.
This is usually initiated by my husband and I often can’t watch most of it. But after reading that roughhousing helps kids learn resilience, develop grit, and bond with their parents, I just don’t say a word.
4. There is a lot of burping and farting happening around here.
Manners are happening too, but bodily functions are not treated as a shameful thing.
5. We aren’t freaking out about stuff.
Getting hurt, spilling milk, not getting our way… There aren’t any gasps of horror coming from us when someone wipes out or breaks a glass or throws out a random curse word.
6. We buy her toys that make her think.
Not just dolls and dresses, although she enjoys that stuff too. She’s just as likely to build towers or construct intricate train configurations as she is to play princess or babies.
7. We try to give her badass role models.
I’m not as badass as she is, but I did learn to ski when I was 38, and I frequently put myself into challenging situations like co-producing a national show while being terrified of public speaking. I’m trying.
8. We encourage choices and failures.
Oh, the failures. They are hard to celebrate, but we do because we hope that the more she fails now, the better she will get at making positive choices when she’s a teenager with a driver’s license.
9. We teach her to listen to that faint voice that says something is wrong.
All kids have that voice. Our only job is to not squash it or undermine it.
10. We listen when she talks.
Most of the time. I mean, the girl has so much to say. But when she’s really trying to communicate with us, we are careful about making sure that she knows she’s being heard.
11. She knows how to pee in the woods.
It’s a skill, people.
12. Mutual respect is taught.
We talk a lot about the types of voices that work to get what you want. No, you can’t order me around, and in turn, I shouldn’t order you around — except for maybe when you are singing in your room until 10 o’clock at night because seriously.
13. Crying is great.
Crying is what makes the world go ’round. I feel so much better after a good cryfest, and I want her to always know that this doesn’t make her weak. It makes her strong.
14. We are trying to expose her to a ton a different stuff to see what badassery might stick.
A lot of that is just watching things together to see what makes her say, “Again! Again!” — like skateboarding, skiing, fashion designing, treehouse building, gold mining.
15. We let a lot of shit go.
The kid walks out of here looking like a hot mess a lot of the time, but she feels so freaking empowered when she picks out her own clothes, so I let it go.
So, there you have it. She’s only 5, so we still have a way to go, but I’m hopeful that as an adult, she will be a force to be reckoned with.
I just hope we all survive her childhood in the meantime.