So interesting that some things about children are exactly what one expected, but others are a complete surprise. Take my daughter. In a physical sense, she looks exactly as I imagined our child would look—except for her startling blue eyes, the result of recessive genes, and her storm cloud of blond hair, which I would have bet good money was going to be red like mine.
But the thing that has completely astounded me as she has grown into the almost seven-year-old I see now is not her blue eyes, or her hair, or even how she has suddenly become tall, but her fierceness. Not 90s girl-power fierceness, though I guess she has that, too, but a genuine wild ferocity, which she has possessed since birth— from the beginning she has passionately made her needs, desires, and pushes for autonomy loud and clear. Teeth bared, voice raised, she has no qualms about puffing herself up to make a stand.
And this amazes me—for how did this small, gorgeous beast come from me? I am usually agreeable, an avowed avoider of conflict, I might even say meek. For God’s sake, I’m a vegetarian—not the hard-core PETA kind, but the kind that will, only if pressed, tout how good it is for the environment, and its positive impact on climate change, but who, in reality, likes those ideas a lot but really just doesn’t want to eat cute animals. Sometimes I feel that someday, while I’m contentedly chewing a salad, she will pounce on me from a corner and eat me alive—her love bites and angry ones almost indiscernible the one from the other. I live in constant amazement of her while at the same time am constantly bewildered by how she came to be—how could a sheep give birth to a lion cub? Somehow even if my children are not like me, I expect them to experience childhood the way I did. But as a child, I was generally obedient, admiring and respectful of adults, and very careful to stay out of trouble. My wily daughter, on the other hand, seems to see to see adults as obstacles she must overcome on her inevitable path to Alpha status.
The fierceness causes daily conflict, there is no way around it. I get tired, my patience wears thin, and the last thing I want is to suddenly be in a fight-or-flight situation with my own kid. Why, I wonder on these days, won’t she just take her disappointment quietly, the way I usually do? It takes me one good, self-righteous bitch-fest and I’m ready to simmer quietly. But her sense of justice is keen, and she won’t tolerate being screwed over. I may quietly chew my cud and vent to members of my herd when things don’t go my way, but her teeth are too powerful to be filed down. And I am, in an exasperated, overwhelmed kind of way, proud. My daughter is beautiful in her ferociousness, a wild ball of love, frustration, and brilliance. And if I must be devoured by someone, let it be her.