Standing in line at our favorite sandwich shop, my daughter and I heard a man be very specific about the way he wanted his sandwich—and he wasn't afraid to ask for it.
"Just one line of mayo, please, and extra pickles," he said, as I looked at my daughter.
She whispered to me, "Why is he being so picky? Isn't that rude?"
My 13-year-old daughter can be shy. It's hard for her to order food at a restaurant and excruciating to ask for extra ranch dressing for her wings or tell the orthodontist she has a wire poking out of her braces that's causing her discomfort. Instead, she says nothing, and tells me later.
I've often helped her out because I, too, struggle with being direct about what I want, but it occurred to me that afternoon that watching me not speak up has made her believe it is rude to do so. And that needed to change immediately.
I've realized just in the past year that I have every right to ask for what I want, just as the man in front of us did. He was really excited—and thankful—as he ate a sandwich he deemed as perfect because he wasn't too shy about making sure he got what what he wanted.
So, I sat down to have a talk with my daughter. I realized I was going to use the simple act of ordering a sandwich as an example to ask for what you want, but there's no way my daughter is going to have the courage to ask for the bigger things in life, like what she needs out of a relationship, or if she is struggling mentally, if she feels it too hard to ask for extra pickles to someone who is being paid to take her order in the exact way she wants it.
"I can't order food for you anymore when we go out, honey. And if something hurts your mouth at the orthodontist, or anywhere for that matter, you have to speak up."
"I hate doing that," she said and looked down at her sandwich.
Speaking up and asking for what you want takes practice, just like everything else in life.
I felt her on a guttural level. I've gone through such a big part of my life sacrificing myself, afraid to speak up if a man made me uncomfortable, and thinking I'd be fine if I didn't get the side of guacamole I'd ask for.
Constantly talking yourself out of your wants and needs leads to you living your life this way. Speaking up and asking for what you want takes practice, just like everything else in life.
"The more you do it, the easier it will become," I told her. "And if you want something extra, or someone is being rude or making you uncomfortable, you must speak up. You must."
I don't think she was convinced, but she will be as time goes on and starts being proactive about living her best life. I'm not afraid to push her when it comes to this. If that means she goes hungry because she doesn't want to order for herself, so be it.
I desperately wish someone had pointed out to me in my younger years how unacceptable sacrificing my own needs and wants for the comfort of others was. I want better for my daughter.
So, we will start with her ordering her own food and speaking up when she's uncomfortable.
As her mother, it's my job to teach her how to do this by setting an example and coaching her, but it's her job to get really good at doing it until she believes it's her right to ask for whatever it is she wants—even if it's just extra mayo.