Category Archives: Tegan

Yes, She’s Cut Out For That (And So Am I, And So Are You)

Tegan, age 9, as Edmund in the Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, getting threatened by the witch.

I need to tell a story about Tegan.

Two years ago this summer – when she was 7 – she decided she wanted to try acting, so I signed her up for a two-week-long camp at a local theater.  The play was Annie, and everyone who auditioned had to sing the song “Tomorrow.”  She knew the song, and she sings very well.  But she’d never done anything like it before.  She was (understandably) nervous, and she (understandably) had some trouble with the audition.  But she did it, and I was so proud of her.  I told her that no matter what, she could feel good about herself.  She’d successfully completed her first audition, and they’d only get easier from there on out.

She was cast as Grumpy Man, and she had one line:  “Keep it quiet down there!”  She delivered it with aplomb.  Because they wanted to give everyone as much stage experience as possible, she also played in all the orphan scenes, singing and dancing and generally enjoying the heck out of the whole experience.

But that’s not really the story.  At some point in the process, one of the directors told me about Tegan, “I don’t know if she’s cut out for this.”  I’m still not sure why exactly, unless it was just because of her nerves and/or shyness in the beginning.   Whether or not that was an appropriate thing for a director to say about a 7 year old during a rather expensive summer camp that was just supposed to be about learning and having fun is probably a subject for another blog post.  This is my obligatory acknowledgment about the huge run-on sentence.   Not fixing it; sorry.  But she said it, and for better or worse it was a comment that stuck with me.

The following winter, she decided she wanted to try another play, so we joined a local homeschool theater group.  I’d heard good things about it, we had some friends & acquaintances there, and neither of us were too keen to go back to the first theater.   That spring she played a witch’s assistant in Wizard of Oz.  She had a good handful of lines, and loved playing the goofy, not-too-bright little minion.  She fell in love with the group, with the process, and with performing.  She’d found her “thing.”

The following fall she played Alice in Alice in Wonderland.

And last month, she played Edmund (one of the four siblings) in The Lion, The Witch and Wardrobe.  She said it was her favorite play to date.

And please understand, this isn’t about getting the lead role.  I mean, maybe it is a tiny bit, for vindication for that unattractive part of me that is happy she proved that initial director wrong.  But the story would have been the same no matter what parts she’s played.  Because she stuck with it.  She found something she loved, and she just DID IT.  It didn’t matter that she wasn’t particularly favored in her first play, for whatever reason.  It didn’t matter that she messed up the words to Tomorrow in her first audition.  It didn’t matter that someone else had decided that she was or was not cut out for acting.   The thing about Tegan – my favorite thing about Tegan – is that she doesn’t question whether or not she can do something.  She is one of the most self-confident people I know.  At nine!  She believes she can do the thing, no matter what the thing might be.  And she just…. does it.  Nerves and naysayers be damned.

It’s like Everett (13 at the time of this writing) who was utterly undeterred when he’d gone most of the season of pee-wee basketball without having made a basket.  “If I keep throwing it up there,” he’d say, “eventually it’ll go in the net.”  And by the end of the season, it had.

Or Paxton (16), who learned the harsh lesson of the betrayal of false friends last year, and is still (literally and figuratively) playing his own music.

Or Spencer (20), who has spent his whole life dealing with people continually misjudging him because of issues like his speech, but keeps on telling his story with a smile on his face, and his confidence intact.

These kids.  They get up every day, and they’re just so proudly and unabashedly and perfectly themselves.  And my God do I admire that.

When I was growing up, I remember these popular posters that said things like, “Everything I need to know I learned from my cat” (or my kindergartner, or my dentist, or whatever).  I imagine that they all probably exist  in meme form these days.

As for me?

Everything I need to know I learned from my kids.


signature

2 Comments

Filed under Tegan

8 Awesome Things About Tegan

10399344_17444418308_2295_n

Today this little princess turns eight.

I think in every family, whether you have one kid or twelve, everyone brings their own unique “je ne sais quoi” to the mix.   I’ve said it a hundred times (and will no doubt say it a hundred more), but what Tegan did was complete us.  She filled the Tegan-sized hole that we didn’t even know existed until we realized someone was missing.  Life with the three boys was so wonderful.  So fun.  So colorful.  But Tegan…. she brought the TECHNI-color.  She brought the glitter.  She brought the fireworks.  She brought the puffy hearts and rainbows.  And I thank God for every day she’s been a part of our lives.

1924071_29718353308_9894_n

Here are just eight awesome things I love about her:

1. She’s confident.  She is so confidently, and unabashedly Tegan.  From the clothes she wears, to the things she does with her hair, to the selfies she takes, to the new adventures she tries every day… she jumps in with both feet, looks the world in the eye, and says, “Here I come.”   When people tell her her new haircut makes her look like a boy – which just happened again yesterday – she shrugs and tells them she loves it short.

1599_41279053308_2866_n

2244_50188848308_3935_n

2. She never met a stranger.  By far the most extroverted of the four kids, Tegan makes friends with everyone she meets.  Not just superficial friends either, but best friends.  Older kids, younger kids, teens, adults; it doesn’t matter to her.  She spent a day at work with Mike last month, and when she got home, she was so excited to tell me about Viktoriya, his beautiful coworker with the fancy clothes and fun office, who gave her candy and became her new best friend and was “the sweetest person she ever met.”  She meets you, she finds the best and most lovable and most beautiful things about you.  Every time.

1915394_195158848308_3911651_n

3. She faces her fears. I originally wrote this as, “She’s fearless”, but then I realized that that wasn’t really the case.  Of course she has fears.  We all have fears.  What’s awesome about Tegan is that I’ve yet to see her fears or nervousness or uncertainty hold her back from anything she’s wanted to do.  She danced in front of 20,000 people, twice (and LOVED it);  she rode the loop coaster that terrified her (and LOVED it);  she’s started acting in plays (and LOVES it).   She’s brave and bold and doesn’t let anything stop her.

18739_220904233308_2774949_n

25603_326567813308_5917861_n

4. She’s compassionate. She often makes me get well cards when I’m not feeling well (yesterday’s was complete with a drawing of her bringing me a cup of tea :)) She’s always thinking of her friends.  She wants the people around her to be happy.  She has such a huge heart for the people, and the animals – including the stuffed variety – that she loves,  and deeply cares about others’ feelings, comfort, and happiness.

61865_428457473308_2073193_n

5. She’s affectionate.  She gives rogue hugs, she’s free with her kisses, and when she comes in bed with us, it’s always with an arm (or a leg, or a whole body) thrown with abandon over my back.

69116_437556228308_3974757_n

6. She asks big questions. Oh boy, this girl.  She ponders the big things in life.  A car ride with Tegan often means conversations about heaven, life and death, prejudice, what makes a good friend, love, heartache, and everything in between.  She’s also the first of the four kids who insisted she not get a sugar-coated answer to where babies come from.

378466_10150437131193309_866944648_n

1378201_10151693031413309_1695069930_n

7.  She loves performing. Singing, dancing, acting, improv, story telling.  Give her a stage (or a living room, or a closet, or a soapbox, or….) and she’s on it.  When she was younger, she was riding in the cart at Target, and suddenly started smiling, and waving, and blowing kisses all around us as I pushed her down the aisle.  I asked her what she was doing and she looked at me like I’d asked a really silly question and said, “I’m in a parade.  I’m waving to all my fans.”  This is a girl who does not mind if she’s the center of attention. When I was kid, I once hid under the table at my roller rink birthday party because I was so embarrassed that my party guests were singing to me.  Tegan would love it if the whole room was singing to her.

1458443_10152002994798309_1574898767_n

8.  She’s a nut.  In a nutshell (see what I did there?), she is a goofy, crazy, ball of energy and one-liners, who loves to laugh and to make the people around her laugh as well.

She’s also a loyal friend, a doting daughter, and I couldn’t possibly love her more.

10329274_10152123561498309_169039430202772625_n

Happy, happy birthday Tegan!  Thank you for choosing me to be your mom. I love you a million, billion, zillion.

10634077_10153256235023309_7813910487017782061_o


signature

2 Comments

Filed under birthdays, Tegan

Before She’s Famous

Tegan, age seven at the time of this writing, wants to be famous when she grows up.  It’s not even that she wants to now that I’m thinking about it.  It’s that she believes, with every fiber of her being, that she will be famous.   Sometimes it’s for singing, sometimes for acting….. and sometimes she doesn’t even know what it’ll be for.  But she knows, and she talks about it often.

So it didn’t surprise me when she suddenly announced, “I want to be interviewed!” yesterday. She wanted me to interview her (about unschooling, about her life, about whatever I could think to ask her), and she wanted it to be shared.

I say this with all the bias that a mom could possibly have, but she is a JOY to know, and a joy to parent.  And if you watch her interview, you too can say you “knew her when.”  🙂

Tegan, before she’s famous:


signature

1 Comment

Filed under Tegan, unschooling

I’m Pretty

11002588_10152686093913309_7253957567587399186_n

Last night when she was getting ready for dance class, Tegan looked in the mirror and said (as matter-of-factly as if she were commenting on the weather),

“I’m pretty.”

“You’re very pretty,” I told her, and the words came easily and confidently, not just as her mother but also as a human being who knows beauty when I see it.

Her statement was so lovely.  So simple, so accepting, as if there were never a question in her mind.  Of course I’m pretty.

And I couldn’t help but think…. when did I stop believing I was pretty?  Did I ever think I was pretty?  Did I think I was pretty when I was seven?  Did someone tell me I was pretty?

All I could remember were the negatives, like holes left from nails in a piece of driftwood.  The surface has long since healed, but the scars remain.

The comments that I was chubby, and (ironically) at other times in my life, too thin.

The reminders about calories, and fat grams, and exercising.

The girl at school who told me was my nose was too big.

The teasing that came when puberty hit, and along with it, horrible skin.

The friend who asked if it made me feel bad that I wasn’t as pretty as my sister.

The other friend who told me I was ugly when I didn’t pull my hair back.

The abusive boyfriend who told me my hair was too long and too poufy, my thighs were too big, and my boobs were too small.  And seriously, when was I going to cut my %&$@! hair?

The coworker who complained that I was stupid (which has nothing to do with physical appearance, but is somehow always there, along with the others)

When did I decide to accept this?  When did I start letting any of it define me?  All I knew was that at some point along the way, it shaped my truth.  It became my internal dialogue.  Did I ever make the conscious choice to CHOOSE to believe it?  Or was I powerless to stop it?   I didn’t know anymore.

“I’m pretty.”

And here is my daughter.  This confident, innocent, beautiful child, who I would do anything to protect.  I am careful – so careful!! – not to verbalize my issues in front of her.  No complaining. No degrading.  No self-deprecation.   When people have told me she looks like me I’ve completely resisted the urge to respond, “Are you kidding? She looks nothing like me.  Look at her, she’s gorgeous!”  And when she looks at me, in her honesty and her love and all her seven-year wisdom and says, “You’re so pretty Mommy”, I smile, and I say thank you. And in that moment… I feel pretty.

But it’s not enough, is it?  To pretend and smile and say the right things and grab the fleeting moments when they come?

I want what she has.  That thing I lost, so long ago.

It’s a lesson she’s teaching me, and will continue to teach me until I get it right.  Not just to feel comfortable in my skin, but to feel fabulous in my skin.  To OWN my skin.  To be able to look back at all those negative voices and say,

“YOU DON’T DEFINE ME.”

I’m working on it.  And if the lessons I’ve already learned, both from Tegan and the boys, are any indication, I’ll get there.  I’ll be able to join her in that mirror, and see a face that’s strong and confident and kind and smart and be able to say,

“I’m pretty”, and mean it.


signature

Comments Off on I’m Pretty

Filed under about me, body image, random, Tegan

Seven

unnamed (18)

And three days later, I’m without words once again.

The thing about Tegan is that when she was born, she brought what we didn’t even know was missing from our family. We were so happy with the three boys. Our family was lovely and wonderful and joyous… but it just wasn’t complete. And her presence was so strong and so sparkly that we heard from her even before she was conceived.

“Hey, what about me?!”

And like the proverbial missing technicolor piece of the puzzle, she completed the family. With more personality, more shine, more LIFE than I’ve ever seen squeezed into one tiny person.

Welcoming Tegan to our family was everything we never knew we always wanted.

And on her 7th birthday, I thank her too. For her love, for her energy, for her beautiful beautiful heart. I don’t know how we ever got so lucky. We love you Tegan, more than you’ll ever ever know.


signature

1 Comment

Filed under birthdays, Tegan

The Missing Boot

When I was around Tegan’s age, I had a little Strawberry Shortcake doll.  She was one of my all-time favorite toys.  That was back when Strawberry Shortcake looked like this:strawberry-shortcake-doll

Instead of like this:

strawberryshortcake2

I loved that doll!

One day I realized that one of her shoes had gone missing.  Total devastation.  And the worst part was that I had no idea when I’d lost it.  Was it at church?  In the car?  In the house? In the backyard?  At the neighbor’s? I mourned.  I mourned for a shoe.

A couple weeks later, after having given up all hope, I was walking across the street to meet a friend to play.  And there it was, lying in the middle of the street.  It was dirty, and had clearly been run over more than once.  BUT IT WAS MY STRAWBERRY’S SHOE.

I immediately picked up the shoe (I probably squealed while doing so) and turned around and started running back for home, not wanting to wait a single second to return it to where it rightfully belonged.    My friend stood in the middle of the road yelling after me, “Hey, what is that?  What’d you find?  Where are you going??”  In my excitement, all I could answer was, “I’ll tell you later!!” over my shoulder as I ran away.  Interestingly, I don’t remember anything that happened immediately after that, but I do remember feeling badly for leaving my friend standing in the lurch in the middle of the road.   Funny the things we remember with 35 years of hindsight.

I was thinking about this yesterday, because Tegan has been desperately looking for a missing Barbie boot. She has about a million Barbies (maybe not that many.  But a lot.  More than 20), but she has some definite favorites. This one had come in a set with a horse and saddle and everything, and had been a gift from mom and dad a couple birthdays ago.  And she was missing a boot.  And my girl was sad.  We’ve been having random search parties, and making a valiant effort, but, well… as I mentioned yesterday, our house has been a little bit disorganized lately, and it truly could have been everywhere.

Well, yesterday I was picking up and getting some things organized, and the boot magically appeared (in a place that had already been checked multiple times, no less)  My heart leapt.  I called Tegan, hid the boot behind my back, and said, “I found something that’s going to make you happy!!”  Said in the voice of Rachel from Friends, when she finds Chandler’s missing Best Buds bracelet from Joey, because I can’t seem to say it in any other way.  Anyway.   Tegan definitely DID squeal, and hugged me so hard she knocked the wind out of me.  She played the rest of the day with her happy Barbie and her two matching boots.

This to me is one of the absolute best parts of parenting, and also the worst.

The best because I don’t just remember what it was like, I feel what it was like.  I’m connected with her in that moment.  I’m Tegan… and I’m me… and I’m the 6 year old me finding my Strawberry Shortcake shoe in the street. I know,  I truly know what she’s feeling, and I know how big and important even the “little” things can be.

And the worst because sometimes you DON’T find the shoe.  I don’t just remember what it was like, I feel what it was like.  I’m connected with her in that moment.  I’m Tegan… and I’m me… and I’m the 6 year old me missing my Strawberry Shortcake shoe. I know,  I truly know what she’s feeling, and I know how big and important even the “little” things can be.

My hope and prayer is that I never forget.  That I never lose sight of the childhood me, and that I never lose that commiseration and connection with my own kids.

Six-year-old me is one of my greatest parental teachers.


signature

5 Comments

Filed under parenting, Tegan

Following Water and Watching Ants…

A stomach bug is currently trying to take over our household, and as completely miserable as that is (seriously, how utterly lousy is a stomach bug??) the forced break and sort of “reset” on life is timely and important. Tegan was sad to have missed a fun field trip on Friday, I had to cancel plans with a friend yesterday, and finally accepting the inevitable, we cleared the calendar for today as well.

For the moment, we’re home. As long as we need.

We’ve been busy lately. A good busy… but busy nonetheless. A friend recently asked me what we’d been so busy doing, and I didn’t have an immediate answer. It’s just been an active season all across the board. More playdates, more field trips, more activities, more plans. Which always leads to a not-so-subtle reminder of the importance of living in the moment. Otherwise, I make myself crazy.

There was a time when even two things scheduled in the same day would stress me out. I couldn’t enjoy a playdate in the morning, because my head was too wrapped up in thinking about getting them to gymnastics in the afternoon. Oh but these kids, especially Tegan… if they’ve taught me anything, it’s that I can’t live that way. Life is in the moments, not in the plans.

Last week, the kids helped me wash the car. Tegan had been asking for awhile, and it’s finally been hot enough to want to get wet lately.

tandewashingcar

One of the girl’s favorite things to do after we wash the car is to put on our shoes, and follow the water down the street.   Like a stomach bug, but without the misery and ick, that walk always serves as a little time-out from life.  We chat and laugh and follow the stream (sometimes walking in the stream) as it goes to the end of our street, around the corner, across to the other side, and down down down along the curb until it finally stops – usually spreading into a thin little pool in the cement wash between two of our neighbor’s houses.  We stand and watch while it reaches out and eventually disappears, thin little fingers of water evaporating in the sun.

This most recent time, our water walk took even longer than usual, because she stopped to examine some ants along the way.

unnamed (1)

We’d had plans that morning, and plans later again that day, but right then, in that moment… the only thing that mattered was following the water and watching the ants.  That’s it.  Not to-do lists, not errands, not playdates, not field trips, not yoga classes.

Water and ants.   A happy girl,  a moment, and a memory.

And I think that when you strip it all down, beneath all the flowery language and philosophical soap-boxing, all my parenting and unschooling advice can be summed up in those few words:

Follow the water.  Watch the ants. 

Say yes.  And be there, with your whole heart.

I have regrets as a parent to be sure.  Things I wish I’d done differently.  Things I wish I’d said “yes” to.  Things I wish I would have researched more carefully and didn’t say yes to.  But I have no doubts that I will never, ever regret taking the time to follow the water and watch the ants.


signature

2 Comments

Filed under kids, life, mindful parenting, parenting, perspective, Tegan

Milestones

Yesterday, after a month of waiting and wiggling and equal parts elation and anxiety… Tegan lost her first tooth. It came off in her hand, as she sat twisting it in front of the bathroom mirror.

20140305_161851

And proud of it.

Aside from thinking that she’s about the most adorable gap-toothed kid I have ever seen, I’m nearly drowning in the bittersweet milestones.  One by one, my baby (my last baby!) is ticking “firsts” off the list.   Yesterday, after the tooth had come out, we’d stopped the little bit of bleeding, and she’d come down off of the adrenaline rush that had her both crying and laughing for a good several minutes, we had the following conversation:

 

I am getting so big!!

You are.

I lost my tooth…

Yep.

I got my ears pierced…

You sure did.

I can climb the wiggly ladder at the park…

I know; it’s awesome.  You’re not going to want to start kissing boys soon are you?

Mommy EW!!!  GROSS.

 

She’s growing up.  But it appears we still have some time before we have to deal with boys and kissing, so I guess there’s that.  She did joke that we’ll probably have to take her shopping for a bra soon (she’s six), and with the speed at which her first six years have gone, “soon” is actually not too much of a misnomer.

Heaven help us.


signature

Comments Off on Milestones

Filed under life, Tegan

To Tegan, The Best Surprise of my Life

DSCN0644

Six years ago today, we went to the hospital for an induction after a long, complicated pregnancy, and a long, frustratingly stalled labor.  We were blessed that morning with a gorgeous little girl… a brand-new experience after three lovely boys.  And what an experience it’s been!   I’ve learned more in the past six years than I ever thought possible.  About myself, about parenting, and about life.  To my daughter, who’s changed my life in so many many beautiful ways:

Dear Tegan,

I am watching you as a write this.  You’re sitting across from me, in your new clothes, tired and happy (oh so happy!) after a successful birthday party.  You’re snacking on carrots and dip and donuts while you watch Good Luck Charlie.  You’ve let down your braid, you’ve played with every single one of your new toys, and you’ve recounted all your favorite party moments with your friends.  You look so big that it makes my breath catch.

I can’t believe my baby’s six.

Just like with your brothers, my heart is forever marked with memories from your birth. The one that still resonates, the one that if I close my eyes I can still feel as acutely as I did six years ago, is the moment that we heard, “It’s a girl.”  Yours was our only pregnancy that we let the gender be a surprise.  And oh what a surprise it was!  You’d think that it’d be hard not to find out, after we’d found out for your three brothers.  But it wasn’t.  It was exciting.  I couldn’t wait to find out who you were…. boy or girl,  Gavin or Tegan.   Everyone always asked if I had a feeling one way or the other, but I really didn’t. And I know that some people have a preference, but I didn’t have that either.  I would have been thrilled with a fourth boy, just as I was thrilled with you.  I think if I’m being honest though, I was expecting another boy, but only because that was the only kind of baby we’d made so far.  So that moment, that moment when the midwife turned you over and we all saw at once that you were a girl:  it was the biggest and happiest surprise I’d ever had.  Nothing before or since has even come close.

A girl.

You were so, so beautiful, and you still are.  You were, and always will be, our princess.

And I know, I know, they say you’re not supposed to call your daughter a princess. You’re supposed to tell her she’s strong and intelligent  instead.  Well, you know what? You are a princess.  You are beautiful. You are strong.  You are intelligent.

You’re a firecracker.

You’re a goof ball.

You’re loving.

You’re confident.

You’re funny.

You’re sweet.

You’re a bundle of energy and one-liners.

You’re authentically and unequivocally YOU.

You’re someone who knows – even at six – exactly what she wants, and exactly how she wants to get it.

Tegan, you have taught me so much.  I think more than anything, you’ve taught me to ENJOY LIFE.  You’ve taught me to embrace the moment.  You’ve taught me to stop and smell the flowers (plus, you’ve taught me to literally stop and smell the flowers)  You’ve taught me to play harder, to live louder, and to love bigger.

And as I sit here and look at you, looking so, so grown up… I wonder if you know.  I wonder if you have any idea how much I love you.  Any idea what it means to love someone so much it hurts.  So much you’d give your life for them.

You tell me you want to be the next Katy Perry some day.  You want to entertain the world as much as you’ve entertained me.  And while I will support you every step of the way, and don’t doubt for one second that you could do it if that’s what you choose, what I hope and pray for you is both simpler and more profound.

If you can love, and be loved, even a fraction as much as I love you right now… I’ll be happy.

Thank you, for six of the best years of my life.


signature

Comments Off on To Tegan, The Best Surprise of my Life

Filed under birthdays, Tegan

Piercings and Perceptions (Those people are SCARY)

1511393_10151846827233309_788285809_n

A few weeks ago, Tegan (almost six at the time of this writing) got her ears pierced. She’d been toying with the idea for at least a year, but was nervous because she knew it would hurt. She talked about it all the time, and asked me lots of questions.  My response was always the same.  I wasn’t going to talk her into it, or talk her out of it.  The only one who could make that decision for her body was her.  “When you’re ready, you’ll know.   And when you say, “when,” I’ll take you.”

That moment came just a few days after Christmas.  Knowing that I wanted to take her to a skilled, reputable piercer who would use a needle rather than the guns used at places like the mall, I made a bunch of phone calls, and asked some friends who’d had their girls’ ears pierced.  We ended up at a wonderful shop, with a kind and patient piercer who knew just how to calm Tegan’s understandable jitters.  When we came in, the soundtrack to Frozen was playing, and she even had the guy at the front desk put on “Do You Want To Build a Snowman?” just as she was about to pierce, because she’d overheard Tegan say it was her favorite.  How above and beyond is that?

Making it even more of an “event”, Tegan had not just her dad and I in her entourage, but also her grandparents who were visiting from Massachusetts.  She’d wanted to share it with them, and they were happy to come along for the ride.  It was a big, momentous day in her life, one that I was so excited to be able to give to her.  We couldn’t have asked for a better experience, and Tegan is thrilled with her new earrings.

I’m thinking about it today because a friend just happened to share an article about why you should take your child to a tattoo/piercing shop (as opposed to the alternatives) to get their ears pierced.  It wasn’t new information for me, but I read it with interest since ours was such a fresh experience.

When I was done, I read the comments, which were largely made by people like us… people who’d had great experiences, and were happy to share about it.  And then there were a few that stood out, a few that said, (I’m paraphrasing):

I would never take my kids in to a place like that.  People who work at those places look scary.  I wouldn’t want my kids to have nightmares.

I grew up around such prejudices and similar attitudes about people with piercings, tattoos, etc. as well.   I remember once when I was a kid, a woman visited our church with a sleeveless dress on that showed off a cute little flower tattoo on her shoulder.  It was adorable (a million times tinier than any of the tattoos I would go on to get) and I was fascinated by it.   But when it was mentioned later in my youth group, it wasn’t to talk about how pretty it was… it was to talk about what kind of “image” a tattoo is sending to the world…. a tattoo that we wouldn’t have even seen had she not been wearing a sleeveless dress, which, of course, sent its own message.

I decided somewhere along the way that I wanted something different for my own kids.  That I didn’t want them to see people for their clothes or their hairstyles or their body modifications, but for who they are as people.  I want them to assume, first and foremost, that most people are good.  That most people are kind.  That most people will treat them as respectfully as they’re treated in kind, no matter what their outer packaging looks like.   In fact, one of the reasons I keep my dreadlocks even through those moments of “I’m cutting them all off!” desperation, is that they open so many doors for acceptance.  It’s rare that we don’t have an outing that finds us talking about dreadlocks with all kinds of different people.  Pierced, tattooed, modified, dreaded, shaved, dyed… all those people that moms like the one up above find “scary”… making friendly conversation and sharing kind words with strangers.  Just like… well, just like the regular people that they are.  Subsequently, there are few things that shock my kids appearance-wise.

That’s not to say though, that there’s anything wrong with a child being unsure or afraid of something he’s not familiar with.  Not at all.  Just a few months ago, we were at a museum when Tegan saw someone with some startling differences, things this woman was born with, that really scared her.  I couldn’t fault her for feeling that way. How I could I?  She’d never seen someone who looked like that before.  What I could do was remind her, and myself, that it’s all just external.  Just packaging.  That beneath the exterior, we’re all the same.  We’re all beautiful.   Worthy of kindness, respect, and love.

So my response to those who wouldn’t want to expose their kids to those “scary” people would be this:

First, some of the nicest people I have ever met have been at tattoo shops.  Truly.  I’ve only had wonderful experiences at every single one of the shops I’ve gone to.  My theory is that the artists who are tattooing and piercing are following a passion … people who follow their passions are happy … and happy people are nice people.  Let down your guard, and let yourself see it.

And second, kids take their cues from their parents more than from anyone else.  If we continue to avoid people who are “different”, they will continue to believe that “different” is scary. If we stay far away from the guy with the long dreadlocks, scoff at the guy with the coaster-sized gauged ears, and silently judge the girl with tattoos all over her neck, our kids will learn from our example.  It starts with us.

It’s okay for kids to be scared or unsure when they’re first faced with someone who looks “out of the ordinary.” It’s not okay for us, as parents, to perpetuate it.

 


signature

3 Comments

Filed under acceptance, judgement, kindness, labels, misconceptions, Tegan