Don’t Call Her Bossy


Don't Call Her Bossy

My firecracker of a nearly five year-old daughter can be a little directive. I don’t know where she gets it.

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That’s a joke. If you knew me, you’d be laughing. Possibly rolling on the floor, kicking your legs, weeping tears of genuine mirth.

When I’m in my element, I can exhibit some very outgoing tendencies. On the inside, however, I’m shy. I’ve had to work to convince myself that my voice is worthy, and my opinions matter. It was a struggle. I try to keep this struggle private, however, and express my hard-earned viewpoints and experiences as though the words could fly from my mouth on their own. I won’t be stifled by internal or external editors. I am a single mom, and if I can manage the life I lead, and parenting 24-7 with no co-parent, then I am going to say what I have to, and what I want to, and stand up for what I believe in. Furthermore, you can bet that if I am in a situation with multiple people, my instinct is to arrange them into some sort of productive order, in the most polite way I’m able to achieve, while also satisfying my innate urge to organize, assign, and accomplish (please note: this urge never comes into play when I am approaching household tasks. Not even a little bit. I just want to organize people, not stuff. Especially not laundry or baskets of art supplies or groceries.)

It appears that my sprout has inherited her mama’s love for organizing people.

Lila throws sand

When my introverted daughter is with her nearest and dearest- whether its the boys who have known her since (nearly) birth, or her sister friends, or her 5, 10, and 12 year old cousins (particularly her 10 year old cousin, who has the patience of a saint and draws the most incredibly detailed stories) she becomes the Queen Ruler of All Games. She is Chief Imaginator, and weaves a fantastical landscape tying together the interests of each of her friends. It is an amazing transformation. She goes from quietly playing by herself, to organizing make believe flights of fancy between fairies, police, cats, and horses. And queens. Sometimes individually, oftentimes together. You’ve never played make-believe until you’ve been assigned the role of “police cat.” That said, my daughter tends to withdraw when she’s in a larger group. She goes from director to observer, and her gargantuan world of make believe becomes internalized. She’s happy to observe, or so she says, but I worry that she doesn’t feel fulfilled by observation. I know I’m not satisfied unless I’m participating, but we are very different people.

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I digress. I project.

But one thing I know for sure. There have been times, when my beloved, precious daughter is playing with friends, and someone will comment to me about how bossy she can be.

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Don’t use that word, please. 

When I hear it, my blood immediately starts to boil. Bossy. I’ve always questioned this word: why is it nearly exclusively used for women and girls? I’ve thought about this a lot, and there are many words that are typically assigned to women. Words like: shrill, hysterical, crazy, and bossy. When was the last time you heard a man being described as hysterical? It goes beyond descriptions too; the very same behaviors, when exhibited by men and boys, are frequently lauded and appreciated. In my heart, I feel like these words are used to diminish women and girls, to box them in, and to trim the wings off their hopes and desires and dreams. I do not want these words to constrain my child. I want her imagination and delight to know no limits.

When you say that my daughter is bossy, I hear that her giant imagination is too big for your comfort. I hear that you want her to follow more conventional pathways. I challenge this way of thinking.

Let my daughter blossom into whatever she wants to be. I am here to protect and guide her. If you call her bossy, I am going to know that you do not have her best interests at heart, and you do not know what it is like to grow up as a girl in the United States. When you see my daughter directing play, you can comment on her leadership, and her big heart, the same one that allows her to know what games appeal to each of her friends and to craft an imaginary landscape for them to play in, together. Notice her creativity. Notice how she includes the littler kids. Notice when she’s rude, willful, and stubborn. She’s not perfect. The size and scope of her creativity are not open for discussion, and if she wants to be called a Queen, or Nala, or Gator Gumbo, let’s just go with it.

But whatever you do, don’t call her bossy.



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