By Kim Haas
I grew up without a voice.
It wasn’t just me raised this way, but many—if not most—women of my generation. See, we were groomed to be nice girls.
Nice girls don’t talk back, especially to their parents.
Nice girls don’t question authority whether that’s a parent, relative, neighbor or teacher—basically any adult we may come in contact with. Nice girls just smile when an uncle tells her not to wear such baggy dresses and that she needs to show off her cute figure.
Nice girls say yes when they want to scream no.
Nice girls don’t question the unfair grade a teacher hands out. Nice girls are, well—nice.
They are respectful which usually translates into being seen, but not heard.
I honor the idea behind grooming us to be respectful. But respectful doesn’t mean never voicing an opinion. Respectful doesn’t mean never asking questions. Respectful doesn’t mean subjugating my needs for others all the time.
Because I deserve respect, too.
I deserve a voice.
Which is why, when we had our daughters, we made a conscious choice to allow them a voice. It hasn’t always been easy. At times it felt like we had opened a Pandora’s Box of anger, frustration and disappointment, especially when fights careened through the house, all of our voices knocking against the walls.
At times I questioned whether we made the right decision, especially when our kids raised their voices to us–the voices I wanted them to have.
Doubt crept in.
Were they being disrespectful? Was I being a bad parent? Did others think I was a bad parent? Was this a huge mistake?
Allowing them a voice meant we had to listen to what they had to say. Allowing them a voice meant they held a mirror up to us and we had to take a good hard look at what we saw. This was not any easy task.
My daughters are now 21 and 18. Soon, they both will be off at college—off on their own, to make their own choices. Off on campuses where they could be vulnerable to sexual assault which, sadly, appears to be a fairly common occurrence.
But I am not as worried as I could be about my girls.
See, they have voices.
They aren’t afraid to say no. They aren’t afraid to question a teacher about a grade. They aren’t afraid of not having a boyfriend—confident enough that they don’t need a boy to prove their worth.
They know their worth.
They aren’t afraid to speak up. To speak out.
They don’t feel compelled to bite their tongues, swallow their words and smile just to be nice. See, we didn’t raise them to be merely nice. Sure, we raised them to be polite, to be kind, but we also raised them to have a voice; to have opinions and to voice those opinions.
We raised them to be compassionate, confident young women. We raised them to be good human beings, not merely nice girls.
And any strife we encountered along the way has totally been worth it.
Kim Haas lives in Michigan with her husband and their two amazing daughters. She does not have a BA or MFA but is learning the craft of writing the old fashioned way—through lots of reading and writing followed by more reading and writing. She became a certified yoga teacher because yoga changed her life and she hopes to offer the same possibility to her students. She enjoys an unexpected good library day, indie bookstores, indie films and loves a good pun, or even a bad one. Visit her blog where she ponders all the ways that the art of practice permeate her life, find her on elephantjournal, like her Facebook page or you can follow her on Twitter.
Editor: Daniel Scharpenburg