How To Raise an Opinionated Girl

Photo by Doña Bumgarner.
Photo by Doña Bumgarner.

Last week I tagged a handful of cute haircut photos on Pinterest. Not for me, but for my 3-year-old daughter. My Bean’s hair is gorgeous. It hangs almost to her waist, honey golden and heavy, with just a touch of wave. It has never been cut. Lately it has been starting to look a bit shaggy, less like a beachy ‘do and more like impending dreadlocks.

Although she’s willing to let me comb it after a bath, neither of us enjoy the process. She also hates to have it pulled back in any way, so the front gets dipped in soup, paint, or whatever else she leans over. I love her long hair, but I was finally willing to accept we needed to do something different. On Pinterest I chose several long cuts, roughly the shape and style her hair was already. I was imagining this cut would just neaten things up.

I also included a couple of shorter cuts just because they caught my eye. I wear my own hair in a pixie and I’m drawn to short cuts visually.

“Honey, come here, I want to show you some pictures. Remember we talked about getting your hair cut? Show me how you’d like it to look.”

Bean scrolled through the photos and pointed at the one she liked. “This one.” This took her five seconds, at most. The photo was of a toddler with a bob, chin length. The girl is staring straight at the camera, ice blue eyes and blonde hair. She looked strikingly similar to my own child, actually. “Are you sure?” I asked. That wasn’t what I had in mind at all.

“That one,” she repeated, then scampered off, back to her play.

I tried again later in the evening. “You know, if you cut your hair short, it will be a long time before it will be long again. Hair takes a long time to grow. Are you sure you want it short? Look at these pictures again.”

“That one.” Same photo, same lack of hesitation.

“I’m not sure she understands the permanence of a haircut,” I worried to her father. “Short hair is a commitment! What if she doesn’t like it?” I was afraid she would regret it. I imagined her tears when she didn’t like how it looked. I remembered the agony of getting haircuts I hated in my own youth.

I tried one more time. Handing her my phone the next day, I said, “Stella, show your dad the haircut you like.” I was trying to trick her. I had the photo she kept choosing to a different place in the list and had scrolled so it was off the screen. It took her a second to find it, but she did. “That one, Dada!”

The only hesitation and doubt about this decision were what I was bringing to it. Bean knew what she wanted. She knew it even when I, the person she wants most to please and be in alignment with, questioned her. She was sure even then. She didn’t waver or backpedal. She just showed me the picture again. Cheerfully. Firmly.

This is what I wanted, right? To raise a daughter who knows her mind, who will speak out about what she wants and desires in her life? Absolutely. I do want that. But the truth is that I’m a little jealous. Because I’m not like that. I agonize over decisions, big and small. I research the pros and cons, I make lists, I imagine how I will feel if I make this decision, or the opposite. I ask for input and I analyze how I feel about that input.

I tend to lean toward the opinions of people whose approval I desire. I know that agonizing about decisions this way takes much more energy than just making a decision and then dealing with whatever comes of it. Yet still I do it. I can’t even remember a time when I made a decision – especially a decision about my appearance – so easily and firmly as Bean chose this haircut. And yet, here is my daughter, three years old, and somehow I have modeled enough confidence to her and given her enough decision-making situations that she knows exactly how to have an opinion, state it, and stand by it.

So often we wish our children were just like us. But I’m so glad that she’s different from me in this way. I hope it holds fast through the pressure cooker of school and puberty. This skill will help her so much in her life. I know this because it has always come hard for me.

Her haircut appointment was last week. She was so excited sitting in the stylist’s chair that she was vibrating. I took a picture of her first look at the finished cut in the mirror and her face looks like someone just told her she’s getting a puppy. She could not be more excited. Her hair now hangs just past her chin, framing her face and grey-blue eyes just like the girl in the picture she choose. She has not voiced even an ounce of regret. She loves her new hair. It is exactly what she wanted.

6 thoughts on “How To Raise an Opinionated Girl”

  1. An amazing perspective Mom!!! Children are quite positive about what they want and Stella certainly made the right choice. She looks and is absolutely darling!!!
    Love you all, Neno

  2. Such a thoughtful piece. I, too, remember getting hair-do after hair-do that I hated. Then, when I was 28, someone told me my hair always looks great. I choose at that moment to believe them. And I have never looked back. When I went to a salon where the receptionist always asked if I was there for a color, I changed salons. Yes, my hair is mixed grey and brown, but it who I am. Way back, when a stylist complained that my hair was straight, I changed stylists. Yes, it’s straight. Yes, it’s grey. Yes, it’s me. So I wear my hair cut so I can wash it and go. Only once recently have I rethought my style — when my granddaughter (12), said I should have long hair. Today, I know I’ve chosen my stylist well because she looked at me when I made the request and said, “What? Who told you that.” And so I looked into myself and thought, geez, I’m still not paying attention to what I want, but to what someone else wants. And so my hair is short, straight and I love it.

    1. Dianna, I love this story! I, too, am totally happy with my very simple cut and I also quit coloring my hair a few years ago. I liked the red, but it wasn’t worth the expense or hassle of getting it done. I like my greys, too!

  3. I think this is a great example of what that wonderful book “Momma Zen” calls, “the grass grows by itself.” Sometimes we don’t even need to teach or model the skills and traits that we most want to foster. It’s particularly tough when what we want our daughters to learn isn’t even part of our own skillset yet, but check it out… the innate confidence of your little teacher. I love this story, and I too hope she hangs on to the strength to be opinionated – especially about how fantastic she looks!

    1. I remember talking to a friend about parenting who had school-aged kids before I even got pregnant. He said it was the hardest thing he’d ever done, but that he had no regrets. He said his kids forced him to face all of his hardest stuff, and that he was a much better person as a result. I remember his words both when I’m having a terribly hard parenting moment and also when I realize I’ve learned something from that small teacher of mine.

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