The Popple walked over to our keyboard and turned on the rumba beat.
“Mummy dance!” she yelled.
I stood up and swayed awkwardly.
“Daddy dance!” she yelled. Adrian did the same.
“So many dancing!” She stomped around in circles with her arms over her head, then stopped.
“No Daddy! Daddy over there!” Adrian had apparently danced too close to her. She pushed him back into the corner. He danced in her direction again.
“No Daddy! No! Over there!” She pointed in the corner again.
“Popple, why are you being so bossy?” I said.
Bossy (adjective): fond of giving people orders; domineering
Is the Popple fond of giving people orders? Clearly. Can she be domineering? Absolutely. So why did I feel so bad about calling her bossy?
Because bossy is a word that’s usually only used to describe girls.
Little boys who assert themselves are hardly ever called bossy. They’re called leaders. Assertive. Self-assured. It’s a far cry from bossy, which implies undeserved confidence. A girl who is bossy has stepped out of line. She should stop being pushy and keep her opinions to herself.
According to the Ban Bossy campaign, girls are twice as likely as boys to worry that leadership roles will make them seem ‘bossy’. They’re called on less in class and are interrupted more. Their self-esteem drops 3.5 times more than boys’ does between primary school and high school.
That’s why I need to encourage my daughter to speak up about what she wants more, not less – even if what she wants is for me to dance in a very specific place in a very specific way for an unspecified amount of time. And that’s often what she wants. That and cookies.
I can teach her to ask for what she wants in a less autocratic way (“Mummy, would you please dance with me?” would be nice), but I’ll probably keep on being her dancing monkey. Because let’s face it – I may the responsible adult here, but she’s the boss of the house.
I hope she grows up knowing the difference.