I used to be quite
conservative, mainstream, well-behaved. I even voted for Brian Mulroney once. I
went to university, completed all my assignments on time, attended my
convocation, got married and found a good job. I went to work at 9:00, came
home at 5:00 and reserved the weekends for wild activities like cleaning the
bathroom. My biggest legal infraction was jaywalking.
Eventually the simmering
sense that something was wrong in my life took over. So I began to experiment.
I stopped shaving my legs and armpits. I reduced my make-up application. I
jaywalked on purpose and not just out of convenience. I got my first speeding
ticket. It was only a matter of time before I turned NDP.
Now, bad girl that I am,
I dress in men’s clothes, write dirty poems about women, file my taxes late and drive
as fast as I want to. I’m divorced, don’t do much housework, have bared my breasts in public and can be
downright rude to men who hold the door open for me.
With every rule I break,
my life feels lighter (though admittedly my earning potential has dropped considerably).
Now, I have no intention to be socially acceptable or well behaved. And I have
no intention of expecting my daughter to be the same. I want her to know the
things I didn’t know, the things that nobody tells children. Like, the house won’t fall down if you put crayon on the wall. You don’t automatically get pneumonia from playing outside in the rain. Food is
the same whether you stick it on the end of a fork or pick it up with your
fingers. Santa Claus will still bring you presents even if you lose your temper
I want my daughter to
trust her own judgement and decision-making. I want her to know the difference
between rules that are for safety or the consideration of others, and those
that just turn her into a compliant, quiet, obedient social citizen.
It was easy when she was
very young. She didn’t know right or wrong, what was appropriate or
inappropriate. I could make the rules myself. I let her run outside in the
rain, I didn’t force her to say please and thank you before she knew what they meant.
She didn’t have to sit insufferably at the table if she was finished eating, she
never had to stay clean, and if an adult was being rude or mean to her (even
unintentionally) she didn’t have to hide her
I was so proud of myself.
I’d nurtured a little girl who said what she thought, followed her own
curiousity, made her own decisions and had no doubts about her personal
importance. A charmed woman at a party gushed to me, “Is that your daughter?
She’s so much her own little person!” And I thought, finally,
a new breed of girl.
But I should know that
rebels aren’t born out of freedom. If I want my daughter to buck the system and come
up swinging, I should have imposed every rule of good behaviour from the moment
she first squawked. The way I’ve done it, she has no
desire to reform society because she’s never felt much
restraint. What she wants to reform is me.
At nine years old she’s realized that there are, in fact, rules that most people follow and
that, for some reason, her mother doesn’t. It’s embarrassing for her.
If I say “Fuck!” out loud because the situation calls for it and I don’t care if she hears it or even uses it herself, she says “Mommy! You don’t have to swear!”. If I park illegally because, well, there’s no fucking other place
to park in Toronto, she looks at me accusingly and says “Are you allowed to park here?” She won’t wait in the car if it’s parked illegally
because she doesn’t want to answer to the parking enforcement
Once I did a u-turn on
Spadina because when they were putting the new streetcar tracks in it was
impossible to turn left. When we were safely going the other direction, I
looked over at her and she had her head ducked under the dashboard. “What’s wrong?” I asked thinking maybe she was suddenly car
sick. She gave me a cutting look and said “Are you supposed to do
We tried to sneak into
the Spice Girls concert last summer. Or, that is, I tried to. The best we could
do was to find a vantage point where we could hear the music and almost see the
videotron. But while I was off looking for a better spot, she confided to my
friend that she was sure I’d been arrested and they
should go immediately to Ontario Place Security to bail me out.
Once I returned (much to
her relief) we joined a crowd of other ticketless fans at the top of the mini
golf course, which was supposed to be closed. Adolescent security guards in
crisp white shirts couldn’t be convinced to just
let the little fans enjoy the concert and worked hard at clearing us out. Who
was the first to leave? My daughter, unconcerned now whether her mother ended
up in handcuffs. She apparently wanted to keep her own record clean
So now I see my mistakes
and I know what I have to do. I have to steer her towards revolution by using
reverse psychology. I’m not going to speed
anymore. I’m going to park legally even if I have to walk a couple of blocks. I’ll forbid swearing and I’ll keep my shirt on in
public. I’ll start teaching her how to be a proper lady, how to use her knife and
fork, how to keep her pretty dresses neat. Maybe I’ll try dating men. And if
it works, she may just turn out to be more of a rebel than I am.
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