When I was pregnant with my first child, although I was single and scared out of my mind, I imagined that motherhood would be the blissful, easygoing experience I’d always dreamed of having.
I’d helped my two sisters who had also been single moms by babysitting their children since I was 12, helped one of my best friends through her two kids, and worked in childcare for years, so I thought I knew what to expect.
I had no idea what I was in for.
I repeat: I had NO IDEA what I was in for.
When my daughter was born in 2012, she was the most beautiful person I had ever seen. She was perfect. She was an angel that heaven had dropped down to Earth, and I was lucky enough to be chosen to be her mom.
But as she grew older, I realized I had given birth to a “defiant” child. “Defiant,” to most people, is almost synonymous with “little devil child.”
My “little devil child” was adventurous beyond belief. She had me chasing her around everywhere, praying I’d catch her before she ruined whatever it was I was working to clean up, write up, or cook up.
She ran out into the street. She would never stop talking. She climbed on anything and everything. She broke a table once, by climbing and jumping on it. She got into EVERYTHING imaginable, and had no fear whatsoever. Ice? No problem. Huge puddles? Fun! Kids biting her at daycare? She bit back!
I had a child who defied the expectations I had about the “mellow, good baby” and sank those expectations right in the toilet, along with the entire roll of toilet paper.
I always loved my child. From the minute I found out I was pregnant, I was filled with an intense and overpowering love for my baby. But as parents we’re often left vulnerable to well-meaning friends, family, and even strangers, telling us what we’re doing wrong and what we should do instead. Motherhood sometimes became unbearable because of all the judgment I faced, even before my child was born. Among all the messages that I’d gotten from society about how babies are “supposed” to enter the world, and how their lives are “supposed” to go, I felt like a colossal failure for being single, financially insecure, and floundering career-wise.
I felt like I was supposed to be miserable that I’d given birth to this defiant child who never let me sleep, or somehow was holding me back from having the career I once aspired to have as a dancer, and at first, I internalized the messages. It led to a lot of depression and struggle for me.
But I also secretly relished having this defiant child in my life, not only because she was a beautiful being, but because her defiant nature let me make peace with my own.
When I was a child, I was bullied, made fun of, and called names for being “weird,” for holding opinions that were different from the opinions of those around me. Because of that, I learned to keep my opinions to myself and allowed myself to shrink so I wouldn’t attract attention from those who were threatened by my ideas.
I was never satisfied with the status quo. I wanted to defy convention, to defy the rules of society, and to live authentically, true to who I felt I really was. But I didn’t have the courage. My parents raised me to be quiet, compliant, and do what was expected of me.
My defiant daughter has taught me to love the person inside me who wasn’t acknowledged or appreciated when I was younger. She taught me to make peace with why I wasn’t acknowledged or appreciated as a child for being exactly who I was. She also taught me the value of letting my own rule-questioning nature shine.
I love the fact that my daughter is so fearless, so courageous. So defiant! I love that she is stubborn and insists on things the way she wants them to be, and refuses to be prim and proper when it doesn’t feel right to her. I love that she knows what she wants, and isn’t afraid to say so.
You see, in order to really change the world, to really shift the status quo, we must be defiant. We must go against the grain. We must be creators of change, defy the boundaries and constrictions of society, if we are to achieve a world where equality and community matters.
I remember that famous quote, “Well-behaved women rarely make history,” and I think to myself, YES! Let my daughter be defiant, to lead the way to progress.
Susan B. Anthony was defiant.
Rosa Parks was defiant.
Harriet Tubman was defiant.
While I don’t expect my daughter to go down in history, I do want her to continue to be who she is – authentically – and to blaze her own trail, despite what society may demand of her.