“My name is Lucy.
This is Lucy’s first-grade school photo.
That is, indeed, a tooth. For weeks, this tooth had been dangling by a thread. We could have done it, but she liked how it looked and played with it at all hours of the day.
Typical Lucy. Lucy, my messy-haired, ferocious, critter-loving daughter, would rather spend her time searching ditches for frogs and bugs than playing dress-up or dolls. The one who takes off her shoes and socks as soon as she walks in the door, leaving them in a trail throughout the house because they’re just too constricting. She’d spend the entire day in her underwear if we let her. She despises dressing up (or getting dressed at all), gets irritated when I try to fix her hair and doesn’t have time to worry about whether her clothes match or not.
I told her to keep her stray tooth in line for her pictures before leaving for school on picture day. She gave me that wry smile as she skipped off to the bus stop and said, ‘OK, mom.’ Instead, she did the following.
My free-spirited, independent, and self-assured 7-year-old displayed that baby for all to see. Look how happy she is! This is the expression of a woman who knows exactly what she’s doing. This girl understands that this photograph will be displayed at all future life milestones. Sixteenth birthday. Graduation. Wedding. Her father had already made this photo into a travel coffee mug for me. He most definitely won the award for the best gift ever!
When the photographer asked if she wanted to retake the photo without protruding tooth, she said, ‘Nope, I’m good!’
She does not conform to social norms. She is one-of-a-kind, and she is proud of it. I frequently have to stop myself from squashing her individuality out of fear of what others might think of her (or, to be honest, of me as a mother). I wish I had her attitude, her tenacity, and her tenacity. I rarely express my concerns or speak up when something bothers me for fear of disappointing or, worse, upsetting someone. When it comes to confrontation, I’m a pacifist. Every day, I work hard to ensure she is not.
Growing up, I was obsessed with what other people thought of me. I desperately wanted to be liked and popular. Instead of embracing the fact that I could have been just like Lucy when I was younger: imaginative, quirky, wild, and very much a rough and tumble kind of girl, I tried to fit in and belong. My mother was also concerned.
My beloved Memaw told her that I marched to the beat of my drum, but the lure of fame got to me, and I lost myself trying to be someone I wasn’t. I desperately wish I could go back in time and tell my younger self that nothing matters! In the long run, I’d say that being true to yourself is the essential life lesson I could teach. I would change many aspects of my childhood and early adulthood, but there are far more that I am proud of.
I eventually figured it out. I wish I had had the confidence and faith in myself along the way.
My greatest wish is that Lucy retains her confident demeanor. She needs to know that she can be heard. She has the right to speak up for herself. She is free to express herself when she feels slighted, dismissed, or otherwise dissatisfied with how she is being treated. It is acceptable to be brave, bold, and strong-willed. And when my husband and I get frustrated with her strong will, we have to remind ourselves that it will help her navigate the world more effectively as she gets older. For the time being, we’ll hunker down and try to guide her to be the best human being she can be.
She’s still young, but I know that the older she gets, the more she’ll feel the pull of what society expects of her.
And I hope that every time she feels that pull, she sticks that tooth out and tells the world, ‘Nope, I’m fine!'”
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