“I want to wear the pink socks.”
“Honey, you have a blue and white dress on. Please just wear the white socks.”
“But I want to wear the pink socks!”
“Tallie, I’m exhausted. Please stop arguing with me.”
“I want to wear the pink socks!”
“Fine! Wear the pink socks!”
My 4 year old daughter puts on the hot pink socks. I angrily stomp upstairs and ask myself why she doesn’t want to listen to me and just put on the socks. They’re just socks! So I go back downstairs to plead my case.
“Ugh, Tallie. It’s Picture Day. You can wear the pink socks any other day. Can you please just wear the white socks?”
Tallie puts on the white socks. I win. Or do I?
I want my daughter to be assertive. I want her to stand up for what she believes in, follow her own lead and make choices that are meaningful to her no matter what anyone else thinks. I really do. We talk about being assertive. I ask her to be assertive in restaurants when ordering. With friends on play-dates. With her brother when choosing a movie to watch. Being assertive is important. But can she be assertive on any other day but picture day?
As it turns out, values can’t be conditional. They can’t depend on schedule, holiday, company or place. As parents we may know that intellectually but in practice, the notion can seem like quite a nuisance. Well, in the short run anyway.
So I thought about it. And after Tallie left for school I confessed my blunder out loud. Raising healthy, strong daughters is an everyday thing, not a sometime thing. It’s not about convenience, it’s about commitment.
So I plopped the hair on top of my head in a clip, put on a warm up suit, brushed my teeth and walked out the door with hot pink socks in hand. I drove to the school and went inside. Then I asked if I could see my daughter for a moment.
When Tallie came out, she looked a little confused. Why was I there? I knelt down infront of her and took her hands. Speaking softly and looking her in the eyes, this is what I said;
“Tallie; this morning Mommy made a mistake. You really wanted to wear the pink socks and I told you I wanted you to wear the white socks. I got very upset and yelled. That was not OK. Mommy was wrong. You know that I want you to be able to speak up and tell me and everyone else what you want. That was what you were trying to do this morning and I wasn’t letting you. That was wrong. So if you want to wear the pink socks, here they are. Do you want to wear the pink socks?”
Tallie shakes her head yes. I smile.
“Can I put on the pink socks now?”
“Yes you can.”
I help her put her pink socks on. Tallie smiles.
“It’s OK, Tallie?”
“So My Love, when someone comes to you and tells you that they are sorry and that they made a mistake, that’s when you can say, when and if you are ready; ‘It’s Ok, everyone makes mistakes.’”
“It’s OK, Mama. Evweeone makes micktakes sometimes.”
Tallie kisses and hugs me.
“Thank you, Tallie.”
“I’ll miss you Mama. See you yater.”
As Tallie turned around and walked back to her classroom in her blue dress and her pink socks I couldn’t help but smile. I don’t know if she’ll remember this exchange but I know I will.
You see, they were just socks. Hot pink socks. But that’s my daughter. We don’t always get the big moments in life to announce our values and transfer them to our children. We get the tiny moments. The moments that come and go so fast you can miss them if you aren’t aware of them. It’s these little moments that build one on top of each other until they create a value that sticks with your child wherever they go in life, whether you are with them or not.
Today it’s socks. Tomorrow it’ll be something else. Friends. Drugs. Sex. What she wants to do with her life.
My husband and I are creating an assertive girl. Assertiveness can not be contingent on convenience. It just doesn’t work that way. And believe me, sometimes raising an assertive girl can be a pain in the butt—but I think it’s worth it. Don’t you?