Why I Let My Unruly Daughter Run Wild

Photo: Gemma Hartley
photo of author and daughter provided by author

My daughter is wild. There's no way around it. She's apt to run into the street if I don't grab her hand. She cuts her own hair every time she gets ahold of scissors. She does what she wants. She listens to no one. And that's just the way I like it. She's a naturally strong-willed child and I have done little to curb her obstinate nature. I'm not a permissive parent; I still have rules. But I make sure those rules let my daughter run wild because I want her to maintain her wildness.

I want her sense of self to become unbreakable before society tries to quiet her — make her smaller, neater, and more in line with the status quo.

I need to let her be loud and untamable because if I won't let her be the biggest version of herself, who will? This wasn't what I always imagined. A girl wasn't what I imagined at all. I was afraid of having a daughter. I didn't want to raise a girl who would have to go up against a world that didn't value her as much as her brothers.

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I thought back to my own girlhood — to the prepubescent catcalling, the subtle sexism of teachers, and the quiet insecurities that grew louder with age. I was self-conscious and scared, and too often boys defined my life. I didn't want to raise a daughter like me, and I wasn't sure how I would raise one differently.

Then my daughter was born and everything changed. She wasn't a thing like me; she was beyond taming. I knew it from the moment she took her first steps. People will often tell me she'll be "trouble" when she grows older, and I think, so what? Let her be trouble for the world. Let her get a bit unruly.

I want her to rebel a little — to push against the system when she needs to. It may make my job as a mother harder now but the payoff of raising a strong-willed woman is worth it to me.

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My son, in contrast, is noticeably calmer and more well-behaved than my daughter. Some of its nature but I'll admit some of its nurture, too. I give my daughter fewer boundaries than my sons because I don't want to tame her to fit society's expectations about what a girl should be. My boys won't get that same privilege, because the world will indulge them enough.

My daughter will have to fight for her voice in the world while everyone quiets for her brothers. Their interests will be taken seriously and my daughters might be questioned. Their value will be inherent while hers must be earned. They don't need the extra freedom I've given my girl — society has already given it to them.

So I'll leave her rope a little longer, and let her yell a little louder.

I'll give her some room to stretch and grow outside the box that defined my girlhood. I'll let her run wild and pray she'll stay wild.

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Gemma Hartley is a freelance writer living in Reno, Nevada. Her writing has appeared on Early Mama, Child Mode, MindBodyGreen, Role/Reboot, and