We had been reading on the couch, sitting close. My ten-year-old daughter suddenly closed her book and said, “That was so good!” Looking up from my own book, I saw the satisfied smile beaming across her face. I smiled, too.
“Wow, you finished it, huh? That’s great!” I said.
My eight-year-old daughter had now entered the room. She spoke to her older sister, who was now no longer engrossed in her book. “I heard you yelling at Lucas (not his real name) on the bus on Friday,” she said. Surprised to hear this, I turned to fix my gaze on my eldest daughter again. Wait, she yelled at another kid? Not familiar. Laying my book upon my lap, I remained silent.
“Yeah,” my ten-year-old started, “I did yell. He tried to sit in my friend’s assigned seat and say it was his. I told him, ‘no, that’s my friend’s seat, not yours.'”
“What did he say?” I queried, fascinated by this unusual recounting of a confrontation. This felt like new territory. I had never heard of my daughter quarreling with another kid this way.
“Well, he told me to mind my own business. But I told him that since he was trying to take my friend’s seat, it was my business.” She continued, recounting the argument and how she never backed down.
Reflecting on this conversation (to myself), the word “advocacy” came to mind. And “courage.” I felt proud of my daughter. I also, perhaps tangentially, thought about how reading builds empathy. I thought about how reading books helps us to see, understand, and share the feelings of another. My daughter is a big reader. Did her reading habit play a role in her willingness to stand up to a known bully on the bus that day? Does reading also build moral courage? Or agency? Maybe it does.
It wasn’t a huge, consequential stand my daughter took that day. But to me, it felt symbolic. She wasn’t afraid. She stood up for another. And I felt so proud of her.