The Struggle of Raising a Strong-Willed Daughter

If I’m lucky, I can catch my daughter when she is still half asleep in the morning, coercing her into a quick snuggle before she comes to her senses. Most often she is off and doing her own thing from the moment she gets out of bed, and I am on the sidelines from breakfast ‘til bedtime. She is fiercely independent, and I can hardly remember a time when she wasn’t. She self-weaned at 6-months-old. She took her first steps 3 months earlier than each of her brothers. She is fearless, wild, and oh so strong-willed.

People always used to warn me about how wild boys were, about how much trouble I’d have on my hands by the time they reached toddlerhood. Everyone assumed, and perhaps I did too, that my girl would be the softest of my three, the one who would stay close to me while the others bolted into the world full-force. If anything, she has been the opposite of that expectation. While her brothers clamber for my attention, she wants to do her own thing. She asks me for snacks if she cannot find them herself, but often I’ve found her climbing on the countertops, claiming whatever food she desires without ever wanting my help.

I love her independence, as stubborn as she may be sometimes. I love that she is untamed and unafraid of the world, so different than I remember myself being as a child. She is always ready for adventure, always looking for the next thing to do. She has a zest for life that I hope she never loses. I worry about raising a daughter in a world that will not value her as much as her brothers, but as I watch her grow, I know she will raise her voice to be heard. I know she will find her own place at the table, even if she has to find her own chair and shove her way in.

I love her natural strength. I know I will be proud of the woman she becomes one day.

But even while her strong personality is one of the things I love most about her, it also makes her my most difficult child by far. She is quick to say no, and often hard of listening. She doesn’t care for rules if she doesn’t see the sense in them. She has no natural inclination to respect authority figures, whether it is me or her dance teacher or her grandparents. She is a force to be reckoned with, and she raises hell when things don’t go her way (and a lot of the time, they don’t). I cannot count the number of times I have had to carry her, wailing and kicking, away from a playground or out of a grocery store.

Beyond the strain of parenting and setting boundaries for a child like her, the emotional struggle of raising an independent child is even greater. The tantrums are hard, but I’ve dealt with tantrums before. It is much more difficult to feel like I am constantly watching my daughter grow-up from afar, because she needs me so little. She doesn’t cry when she falls down. She doesn’t need be by her side at the playground. She isn’t needy of my attention and love, even when I want her to be. There are certainly times when I wish she would have stayed my small snuggly baby for just a little while longer. There are times when I wish she would slow down or look back to see if I am watching her. But the truth is, there is never a moment I wish she was a different kind of girl – that she were less independent or strong-willed or wild. She is exactly who she is supposed to be, and I’ll take every bit of pride and pain that comes with that, because who she is, is perfect.