“Though she be but little, she is fierce”
I am lucky to know many strong-willed and incredible women, but there is one in particular that amazes me constantly. She has a very independent spirit, a feisty character and a take-no-excuses kinda attitude. She also has the biggest heart and gives out hugs like it’s her JOB! She is soft natured and sensitive, has a relaxed and old soul, laughs from her core and has a smile that will brighten any mood. But through it all she is true to herself, will voice her opinions in any situation, demanding that she be heard and fundamentally balances the gentle and the giant parts of her personality in a way that inspires me daily. This young woman is my daughter. And I have a lot to learn from her.
People always tell you about the terrible twos. How the crazy tantrums and egocentric young child will drive you mad. How you will fight endless battles with your little one who seems to suddenly know it all. How they won’t eat or sleep like they used to and how this will be a direct reflection of their later 16-year-old self. Panic central! I must say, as 1 September 2013 got closer, I was terrified that my sweet little girl was going to turn into a monster on her 2nd birthday. To all new Mamas, I must apologise up front as I’m not going to tell you that people are wrong. In fact, I think that they are 100% accurate. Every time my Bella starts to let her feelings known, I think of Shakespeare’s words: “though she but little, she is fierce”. And damn, my girl can be fierce! But what I do want to tell you is that fighting the terrible twos is not going to get you anywhere, except maybe sitting on your bathroom floor in tears as you try to escape the screaming child who insists that her dinner looks better on you than on her plate. No, fighting it is not the key. I think the key is embracing the hell outa the twos and showing them who’s boss!
Recently Bella and I were in Exclusive Books. While shoppers quietly searched for the perfect read, Bella started getting edgy and I could tell her fuse was short. I tried to distract her but she started pulling books off the shelves. So getting ready to leave, I ashamedly whispered ‘you are so annoying!’ under my breath, to which my feisty young girl screamed at the top of her lungs ‘I. AM. NOT. ANNOYING!!!’. Yes everyone stopped and looked at me. Yes I was embarrassed. And yes we ran out of there at lightning speed. And I felt awful.
Then a few weeks later I went for lunch with an old friend. Sandton Square. With a toddler. I am an idiot. On our way out of the whiney lunch (whiney as in a toddler moaning, not winey as in boozey), my sweet Bella decided that it was time to assert some control over what obviously seemed like a painful experience for her. She screamed and cried, stamped her feet, went stiff and threw herself onto the floor in a dramatic display of ‘I am a toddler, hear me roar’ behaviour. Instead of feeling embarrassed and trying to run for the hills, I decided to just let it be. I let Bella have her moment, lie on the floor and vent her frustration. After a few minutes, she calmed down, came and asked for a hug and we went home. Yes people stared, and probably judged, but I didn’t care. And that was due to a realisation I had suddenly made.
The twos are frustrating. Your little bundle of joy suddenly has a major personality, some serious likes and dislikes, a need to assert independence and often lacks the necessary communication skills to make these things known to you. It is so easy to get wrapped up in it all and to feel overwhelmed when you are being screamed at by a two year old, and to just scream back. But try to take a moment and revel in the fact that your child is independent, and feisty, and strong-willed. From my perspective, a daughter who is not afraid to voice her ideas, to know that her opinions matter and to be strong enough to fight for what she believes in are the most important lessons I want to teach her. And these lessons start now, in these early formative years. Yes I hope that when she is 25 she will voice these opinions with fewer tears and shouting than she does now, but teaching her that her thoughts matter, that her voice is worth hearing, that her feelings are valid and that I respect her point of view are life lessons that a girl needs to be taught by her Mama.
I am not advocating screaming toddlers in shopping malls or a lack of discipline. In fact, if you ask any of my friends they will tell you that Bella is impeccably well behaved, says ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ for everything and is the sweetest and kindest little person you will ever meet. Teaching our daughters to be polite, to have manners and to be kind is just as important as allowing them to be head-strong and independent. It is within the balance between being gentle and being fierce that the essence of a strong woman truly lies. I not only welcome Bella’s fiery personality but secretly smile whenever she shows her cheeky side, because I can see the woman in her and damn, what a force she will be!