“Mama, what does bossy mean?”
I looked at my five-year-old daughter, her innocent, wide brown eyes looking back at me.
“What makes you ask that?” I asked.
“In school today, people were calling this girl bossy. And it sounds bad,” she said, her voice uncertain.
“What was this girl doing?” I prodded.
“She was telling people what to do,” she explained. “People say she’s bossy so they don’t like her.”
“Do boys in your class ever get called bossy?” I asked.
She looked at me in surprise. “No!” she scoffed. “I’ve never heard a boy be called bossy.”
That right there—so much truth and weight in such a small statement.
First, I explained to my daughter that it’s never okay to try and make people do things they don’t want to do. Then I dove into my main point.
Being bossy can be a wonderful thing.
Finding your voice and using it is the best gift we are given in this lifetime. Without it, we become spectators in our own lives and in our world.
At this exact moment in time, I’m deeply grateful for bossy girls and women. I look at the grassroots movements in this country, especially from our youth. My best friend sent me a picture recently of her 14-year-old daughter and her friends making signs for a march. This was shortly after her eldest daughter, a senior in high school, was part of a massively successful student walkout movement across the country.
It’s all bittersweet. Initially, it made me sad that we are at this point in our world where we have to fight so deeply for our civil liberties and physical safety, but it also makes me so damn proud.
Here are girls who are spearheading civil rights movements with their voices. They are not only encouraging their peers to join them on the front lines, but they are also telling the world what to do. They are telling the world to do the right thing. If that is not a badass kind of bossy, I don’t know what is.
“So, when you are a grown up, do people stop calling girls bossy?” my daughter asked, bringing me back into the present moment.
[Insert deep-rooted internal sigh and clenched heart.]
While I didn’t explain to my five-year-old that the “B” word unfairly transitions as women hit adulthood, I did level with her.
“When boys and men use their voices, they are called leaders. Unfortunately, sometimes when girls and women do the exact same thing, they can be called bossy. Since that is so completely wrong and ridiculous, don’t ever stop using your voice. You are important. You matter. You are a true leader. You were born to be heard. When you aren’t scared of being called bossy, especially if you are still being kind to people while you use your strong voice, you can and will absolutely change the world.”
My daughter smiled. “If I’m ever called bossy, because I’ll always be kind, I will say thank you.”
Yes. A million times, yes.
To all my parenting warriors out there in this complicated world, let’s please teach our girls and our boys to speak up for what is right, how to respect all voices, and how to harness the power of listening.
Please join me in helping our bossy girls rise up and tell the world that they are here.
Author: Lindsay Ryan Crawford
Image: Author’s own
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Copy Editor: Yoli Ramazzina