Or anyone else for that matter.
When I was really young, I was disconcertingly confident. Rough and tumble, I wanted to be Batman, not Wonder Woman - Hans Solo, not Princess Leia. I wore cowboy boots, and if the boys got out of line I'd kick them just to let them know they should not mess with me. I had no time for foolishness from grownups, and I would square up against any adult I thought unworthy of my respect.
It had not yet sunk in that being tough and standing out meant setting myself up for rejection from my peers. I had yet to learn that adults, who resented being challenged, would withhold love and approval as a means to tame my spirit. For me as a young girl, that rejection and withholding of approval were soul-crushing. I learned that to be loved, to be accepted, I had to be nice. To placate. To please. I learned to be compliant and agreeable. I learned to put everyone else's needs and wants ahead of my own - worse, I learned to act as though I needed and wanted nothing at all. I struggled so hard trying to please everyone that I developed depression and anxiety by the time I was in the fifth grade.
My highest priority as a mother is to take the sorest, most tender memories of my childhood and turn them into teaching moments for my daughters, to make them stronger, more resilient, more authentic, more empathetic and more enlightened human beings. So, I am teaching them that they do not have to be nice.
They do, however, have to be kind. Kind means you can acknowledge and validate the other person's feelings, without letting them trample all over yours. Kind means you fight for the greater good - for what is right - without giving away your power. Kind means recognizing that there is a time for sacrifice, civility, hospitality and gentility - but there is also a time to kick ass and take names.
This "we don't have to be nice" thing is a learning curve for me. I don't know if I'll always get it right. I am working through it day by day, working it out with them, teaching them (and me) from moment to moment that it is okay to fight, as long as we fight with fairness and dignity for everyone involved, ourselves included.
Let's stop telling our daughters to "be nice," and realize what a disservice we do them by trying to turn them into nice girls. The world wants women to be nice - to put everyone at ease, not make waves, keep the peace, and quietly, stoically endure insults and injustices. I played this game for a really long time, but I'm done now. Not only that - I refuse to teach my girls the rules.