A letter to my daughter: you do not have to be a ‘good girl’

Photography: Georgia Russell

By Haylee Hackenberg

My daughter, you are growing every day before my eyes, and it is glorious to watch.

Your arms and legs, once covered in delicious marshmallow rolls, have stretched into willow. Your face is now a masterpiece of the constantly changing myriad of your emotions (I’m sorry darling – like me, you’ll never be very good at poker).

From birth, the world outside our love bubble has been questioning your status as a “good girl”. A good girl. Held up as the epitome of adjectives we can aspire to as a young female. “Is she a good baby?” asked by friends, family and strangers alike. How I fantasised the answer: “No, she’s awful. She’s plotting world domination from her cosy place inside the carrier.”

In reality, you were a perfect baby. You fed constantly, and barely slept – and only on your daddy or I – and cried when we put you down. Just as a baby should be.

Now you are three years old and I can hardly believe it. Three is incredible. Three is delightful. Three is watching you grow more into yourself each moment. You are discovering you have some control over yourself, over others, and the world around you.

But three can be tough too. You are also discovering boundaries, and naturally, the consequential emotional fallout that follows.

Ah, those three-year-old emotions. So big. So all encompassing. The highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Ever so real, ever so forceful. In a world where our feelings are so undervalued, I fear your emotions are too big for most. I watch the people around you growing more and more uncomfortable if you don’t “shhhh” when you’re upset. It unsettles them, this kind of raw emotion. It unsettles me too, so unused are we to sharing our feelings in a “she’ll be right” culture.

I struggle with my own discomfort, my own need to make your unhappy feelings go away. But these are your emotions to have. Your feelings to feel.

I won’t lie. It is tough to listen to. The noise. The full body breakdown. The sobbing. I struggle with my own discomfort, my own need to make your unhappy feelings go away. But these are your emotions to have. Your feelings to feel. You are as entitled to your feelings, as I am to mine, and you haven’t had over three decades to refine your coping skills as I have.

Inevitably, the hushed disapproval begins. The awkward glances. Perhaps, if the adult in question is feeling particularly uncomfortable, a less than subtle eye roll. “Come on, be a good girl.”

But I am here to tell you, my darling, that is utter crap. You do not have to be a good girl.

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  1. says: Emma

    Absolutely perfect words!! I have a five year old son who is ‘experimenting with being cross’!! I have no problems with this- he’s talking about his feelings; learning to express himself. Your words are the ones I’m going to show to my disapproving family because I can’t find the right words!!

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