My daughter flails on the floor, screaming and crying. Her sister took the toy she wanted to play with and I won’t let her watch a show. She’s been like this for an hour, a fiery fury bursting from within. And with every attempt to soothe or distract or speak logic to her, she responds with a scream of rage so deep and desperate. I want to say, “Get over it.” I want to say, “It’s not a big deal.” I want to say, “Calm down, be quiet, you’re overreacting.”
But that’s where it begins, isn’t it?
That’s where we silence our daughters’ voices. That’s where we teach them to be kind and calm and courteous. That’s where we convince them to settle for whatever they’re given. That’s where we tell them that someone else’s comfort is more important than that voice that screams inside of them. That’s where we take away their power.
Because it’s not a big deal, at first. It’s not a big deal when a sister takes your toy. Then it’s not a big deal when someone you love crosses your physical boundaries. It’s not a big deal when you learn you have to conform and obey in order to earn love. It’s not a big deal when you have to sacrifice your wants and needs over and over again in the service of others. It’s not a big deal when those others strip you of the rights to your own body.
Except, suddenly, it is a big deal. It’s the biggest deal. And yet, here our girls are, struck silent. Because we’ve taught them to expect so little and accept so much.
At least that’s how I feel. Growing in fury from within, but unable to find the words, the voice, for my righteous rage. So conditioned by time and experience that it feels almost like an inconvenience to ask for my very human rights. Am I overreacting?
And neither is my daughter.
Her screams come from a place of unfiltered courage and determination that I’ve long left behind. The voice that she uses so freely takes me unimaginable time and energy and effort to bring to the surface. Her ability to fight for what is right, in her eyes; to fight for her rights as she has determined them, is nothing short of inspiring. If also hugely frustrating, at times.
And so, I will not tell my daughter to calm down and be quiet. I will not make her fit into a form or find a false voice that makes me more comfortable. I won’t try to convince her that her reality is something other than what she feels, nor will I say she’s being too much.
Instead, I will sit with her. Silently, in awe, I’ll watch as she rages with every feeling that I contain deep in my soul. I’ll let the Earth shudder beneath us with her fury, and hope that I can absorb just one wave of her courage. With that, I’ll take her hand, I’ll meet her eye, and she’ll see the fire that burns in her reflected back in me.
And we’ll roar together and stomp our feet and raise all hell until our voices are heard. We’ll kick and scream and fight for what is right. We won’t dim our light or doubt our worth, but we’ll let our righteous fire fuel us until we find, until we make, a future that is filled with of all the love and kindness and beauty we hold deep within, beneath the armor of rage we’re forced to put on for protection and preservation. And we won’t back down until we create a world that’s worthy of us.