The other day I was sitting in the dentist office with my daughter. For the first half hour, she looked at books and fiddled around with the spattering of baby toys in the waiting room. And then it began.
“I’m bored, Mama!”
“It will be our turn soon.”
“But, I’m BORED!!” Her voice echoed off the walls until it filled the whole room. An elderly man raised his eyebrow. A teenage boy scowled and sunk into his seat. I pulled her closer to me and used my sternest whisper.
“You have to be quiet in here. You’re bothering people.”
“But, there’s nothing to doooooo!” Her voice curled up into a buzzing whine. The old man shook his head and clicked his tongue. The receptionist peered over the counter. I tried to disappear into my shirt.
“Come back here, sweetie. I’ve got something for you.” The receptionist stepped out from behind her desk and took my daughter’s hand. Five minutes later, Evi came back with a gigantic lollypop hanging out of her mouth and a mountain of stickers and coloring books piled in her arms. She gave me a satisfied smile and got to work covering her legs in stickers and lollypop goo.
My daughter is loud, bossy, and whiny. I suspect she may be a brat.
The thing is, I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing.
In my house growing up, saying no was not an option. Not to extra brussels sprouts, not to four-hour trips to the store, not even to Aunt Sharon’s cold wet raisin kugel (sorry, Aunt Sharon).
There was no talking back, no making a scene, no asking for seconds on dessert (unless it was that last lonely piece of kugel).
My mother did an excellent job of molding us into soft-spoken, polite, well-behaved kids. Relatives would fight over having us come to visit. Our friends’ parents all begged us to teach their kids how to behave. Strangers in restaurants would compliment my parents on what a good job they’d done raising us.
They did do a good job. In fact, they did an amazing job in many ways. When I was 15 years old and all my classmates were out drinking in the woods and making out with boys, I was home, with my parents, reading “The Brothers Karamazov.”
People often remark on how similar my daughter and I are. Not in appearance. Her red hair and snow-white skin stand in sharp contrast to my Middle Eastern looks. But there’s a certain free-spirited confidence that we both have been blessed with.
The difference is mine took me years to earn while hers seemed to have popped out along with her baby teeth and wild curls.
Seeing how my daughter manipulates the world with such ease makes me wonder how my life would have been different if I’d been encouraged to speak my mind a little more when I was younger… even when it was inconvenient. Even if that would have made me a “brat.”
What if my mom had tolerated me saying no to her more often? What if I had been permitted a little sass here and there?
Would I have had more friends? Would I have avoided being the target of so much bullying? Would I have been able to find my own prom date instead of being “shidduched” into going with a family friend?
The truth is I really don’t know. What I do know is that when I see my daughter demanding her rightful turn on the swing, or insisting that she’s eaten her fair share of brussels sprouts, or even making a scene in the dentist’s office, I feel more proud than inconvenienced.
We’ll see how I feel when she’s 15.
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