As some of you know, I have a daughter who can be quite challenging. She fits the criteria for a ‘gifted’ child, or a ’spirited’ child, and if I was inclined to apply New Age woo-woo labels, I’d probably even call her an ‘indigo’ child.

I know some of you perhaps have a better understanding than others of what having a strong-willed child is like. For the rest of you, here’s a small taste of what parenting this kid is like.

I got a call the other day from the wife, letting me know that our daughter had been suspended from school. She has been having a running conflict with a boy in her class, and it had apparently escalated.

Things took a nasty turn in the morning, when he picked up her bookmark from the floor near her desk, crumpled it up in front of her, and threw it away. She insists he knew it was hers, he insists he thought it was garbage. She apparently popped him in the face, and was sent to the office to cool down.

Later that day, with tempers running high, the two of them ran into each other during gym class. The gym teacher believes the collision was a genuine accident on his part, but of course given their history my daughter believed it was deliberate. She whipped him in the face with her coat, and at some point scratched his face with her fingernails. She was chasing him around the gym when the teacher had to step in and separate them.

So, long story short, she was suspended from school for a day and a half. Needless to say, this cannot happen again. She was grounded, and she lost the privilege to grow her fingernails out. And her mother wanted her to write letters of apology to the boy, the boy’s mother, and the gym teacher.

She’s been pretty quiet about the whole episode. She knows she screwed up. But her real opinion on the whole episode only became apparent when she was writing her apology notes.

To the mother:

“Dear Mrs. [XXXX], I’m sorry I hurt [the boy]. But you have to realize that he’s been seariously grinding on my nerves all week. I’m very sorry.”

So she was sent back to try again. Another of her efforts wasn’t much better:

Dear Mrs. [XXXX], I’m sorry about hurting [the boy]. I didn’t mean to hurt him that much. I’m very sorry.”

Sigh. Although she has been compliant and fairly meek (for her), it’s clear that deep in her heart, she knows he deserved it. And she isn’t going to back down from that easily.

And although I have to be sternly disapproving, a tiny little part of me applauds her. I would much rather have a daughter with fire in her heart, and a strong sense of justice, than a delicate flower that bends whichever way the wind blows. She can’t go on beating on people that tick her off, but I do want her to grow up committed to fairness. We just need to expand that sense of fairness and justice to include other people.