Updated: Sep 19, 2019
The other night I was at the playground with my daughters. It was an unusually busy night at the park, and there were teenagers everywhere. My oldest daughter told me it was boring because the big kids were taking up the swings. I told her to go over and ask the teens if she could have a turn on the swing. She looked tentatively over in their direction, and quietly shook her head “no.” I was so sad and disheartened as I watched my daughter decide that her happiness was not worth taking a risk and using her voice to ask for what she wanted. I decided at that moment to up the ante. I told her, “this is a safe environment. We are at the neighborhood park, and your mom is sitting right here. Go and ask for a turn.” I added, “I’ll give you a $1.” She gave me a questioning look and paused. She looked over at the teens and again shook her head. I asked her, “what is the worst thing that could happen? Do you think they will beat you up?” She said, “no.” “Will they tell you to go away?” Again, she shook her head, “no.” I asked her, “what is your worst fear that is holding you back from going to ask for a turn on the swing?” She couldn’t articulate what was holding her back, so I upped the ante again. I offered $2, and she quickly responded with, “I’ll do it for $20.”
The next thing I knew, my youngest, who had been watching the teens, masterfully swooped in, and grabbed a swing when one of the teens jumped off. The teen was left looking at this brave 4-year-old and without a word, walked away to find another hang out spot in the park. The teen’s friends quickly followed her, which freed up the other swing. My oldest swiftly made her way to the vacant swing, and I watched my two girls smile and laugh as they enjoyed swinging side by side.
This 3-minute incident illustrates one of the significant differences between my two daughters. My oldest is passive. She sits in the background and watches what she wants. Even in a very safe environment such as this, she is unwilling to step outside her comfort zone. My youngest, on the other hand, knows what she wants, and she is going to go and take it. She didn’t ask for a turn, and she didn’t give the teens a choice. She observed them and timed her takeover just right. She stared into the eyes of the teenager just waiting to see what she would do. My youngest is fearless, while my oldest is fearful. What was interesting about the interaction is neither one of them used their voice to ask for what they wanted respectfully.
I regularly think about a quote by Brené Brown, “You either walk inside your story and own it or you stand outside your story and hustle for your worthiness.” Using your voice to advocate for yourself sometimes gets lost along the way.
Message to my daughters: It is essential you don’t lose sight that your voice is critical in owning your story. Finding confidence and believing in your worth is imperative to owning your story; without it, you are just a spectator watching your life played out before you.