My Daughter Doesn't Have To 'Shut Up,' And Neither Do You

by Kimberly Zapata
Originally Published: 
Nadejda Panina / Shutterstock

An old friend and I were attempting to catch up the other day when, less than five minutes into our conversation, she paused, laughed, and said, “Boy, she doesn’t shut up, does she?”

Christ, I thought. Not again. Not this again.

You see, this isn’t the first time I have been asked this question. In fact, I’ve heard multiple variations of it over the course of my daughter’s short life (“Does she ever calm down?” “Does she ever slow down?” “Does she ever stop talking?” and my personal favorite, “God, she’s so loud”) but that is because my daughter is 3. Three freakin’ years old, and like so many children her age, she is friendly. She is outgoing. She is enthusiastic, inquisitive, and insightful, and yes, she is chatty.

She is especially talkative when I am on the phone, when she does not have my full, and undivided, attention.

Of course, I would love a few minutes of silence. I would love to have an uninterrupted conversation, and I dream of lying on my bed, kicking up my heels, and talking (just talking) while on the phone. But I don’t want said silence to come at a cost. I don’t want said silence to come at my daughter’s expense, and I sure as shit don’t want her to “shut up.”

Not now.

Not ever.

Because there is nothing wrong with “being loud.” There is nothing wrong with eagerness and expressiveness. There is nothing wrong with enthusiasm and curiosity, and there is nothing wrong with her.

There wasn’t a damn thing wrong with what she was doing.

Make no mistake: I do not let her talk over others or through others. She doesn’t shout at the library, and she knows better than to scream through a movie. Well, at the very least, she understands what is and is not appropriate. But again, she’s 3.

But implying that she should stop singing? Stop playing? That she should stop speaking in her own damn home just because I am busy? Just because I am on the phone? Yeah, no. Fuck no, because saying “shut up” isn’t just rude, it is ignorant. It is offensive. It is demeaning. And it is dangerous.

If she hears these words and like-minded messages enough, she may feel like a burden or a bother. She may feel inhibited in speaking her mind. Much as I did. Much as I still do.

Make no mistake: I grew up in a happy home. A loving home. A picture-perfect nuclear family sorta home. My parents cared for me and nurtured me as best they could, and they rarely told me to “shut up,” but I knew early on that I was “too much.” I danced too much. I sang too much. I talked too much. I climbed too high. I ran too far, and I was too loud, too hyper, too crazy, and too sensitive.

I needed to calm down, quiet down, simmer down, and settle down. I needed to breathe, chill out, rest, and relax. And I did.

Over time, expectations silenced me. Society swallowed me, and I became the girl I “should be.” A sweet and loving little people-pleaser who rarely stood up and never spoke her mind.

But I now know I didn’t need to “shut up.” (I don’t need to “shut up.”) You shouldn’t “shut up,” and my daughter better not “shut up,” because her words matter. Her thoughts matter. Her feelings matter. Even that story she just spent the last 15 minutes telling me — you know, the one about Darth Vader and Cinderella riding a chicken? Yeah, it fucking matters.

And so do you.

So does your voice.

So to you, to my younger self, and to my sweet little girl, I say this: Be bold. Be brave. Stand strong, and take no shit. Talk as loud (and proud) as you like because you aren’t obnoxious. You aren’t annoying. Your words aren’t empty and pointless, and you aren’t a bother. You aren’t too much.

Instead, you are empowered and impassioned. You are fierce, fervent, and intense, and you are exactly as you should be.

You are exactly who you need to be.

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