Six Lessons From My Daughter

Perhaps it is because Lucy is so different from me that she has taught me so much about relationships, life and myself.

I always imagined if I ever had a daughter, we would have everything in common. In reality, Lucy is the least like me of any of my children, at least as far as her personality goes.

When I was pregnant with Arthur, he wasn’t really much of a kicker. He would generally just roll around, stretching his butt into my rib cage, twisting from one side to the other slowly and gently. My most mellow child has always been mellow. As an infant, he slept most of the time, reaching his milestones in just enough time but never truly in a hurry to get anywhere, always satisfied where he was at. As a child, he has been a mirror image of myself in many ways, a brooding and wryly witty bookworm with an artistic temperament.

Lucy, on the other hand, was so active in utero that my wonderful obstetrician, Dr. Heather Martin at Contemporary Women’s Specialists, referred to her as “Karate Girl.” From birth, she ran hot and cold like an old faucet, illuminating the room with her bright, luminous laughter moments before bursting into defiant tears. While Arthur was satisfied looking through books and drawing at an early age, Lucy would practically roll in dirt, making mud pies and putting rocks in her mouth. From an early age, Lucy was fierce, wild, and bold, a bubbly, energetic child with a deep love for everything kawaii and sunny in the world. She literally bounces when she walks, dabs triumphantly to celebrate her successes, and narrates her activities as if she is hosting her own YouTube channel.

But perhaps it is because she is so very different from me that of all of my children, she has taught me the most about relationships, navigating life, and myself. Here are a few of the most valuable lessons Lucy has taught me.

1. The Dale Carnegie Method works.

One of Lucy’s finest traits is her habit of finding ways to compliment other people.  She is one of the most encouraging, kind people I have ever known, the living spirit of her great-grandmother Naomi Ruth. A friend once pointed out, “When other kids tell Lucy they love her new outfit, she always says, ‘Yours is beautiful, too! I love your shoes!’ “ Lucy will tell anyone anywhere that she loves their hair, their smile, their drawings, their jokes. She endears herself to them and makes friends everywhere she goes because people are naturally drawn to those who make them feel good about themselves. She tells me daily that I am a wonderful mother, which means so much more because of how terrible my relationship with my own mom was, and she asks how a person’s day was before she tells them about her own.

Lucy and her good friend Emma

Lucy’s habit of constant kindness is a powerful reminder to me that I do not know the personal walk of another human being, but that kind words can be a gift in difficult times. It’s also valuable to keep in mind the old adage that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, something we seem to forget too easily in the post-tech world of perceived anonymity and technological detachment.

2. Positive self-talk has powerful benefits.

Before Lucy was born, I never would have called myself beautiful. I know, I know. We’re all beautiful in our own way, no matter what they say, words can’t bring us down. But in reality, love for one’s self is one of the hardest challenges most women will face.

Lucy is such an encouraging and kind person to begin with, constantly telling me she thinks I am incredibly pretty, specifically pointing out things she admires, from the smoothness of my skin to the way I braid my hair. Seeing myself through her eyes has given me a new perspective on how to love myself; in a world where women face constant scrutiny and are often told they are not good enough, I want my daughter to love herself with the kind of love and admiration she has given me.

But how can I teach her that unless I demonstrate that kind of love for myself? In many ways, I see in our relationship the kind of mutual support that all women should give each other. I learn from her, I give to her what she has given to me, she learns from me, she gives that love and learning right back, and the cycle begins again.

And Lucy is constantly encouraging herself. When we replay videos we have recorded, she will proclaim, “My voice is so cute! I can’t believe how adorable I sound on video! It’s hard to believe it is even me!” She will look in the mirror and say, “Wow, I did an amazing job on this cosplay makeup! Can we take a picture?” We could all take a page from Lucy’s book when it comes to loving and encouraging ourselves.

3. Bad haircuts aren’t the end of the world.

If anything sums up Lucy’s life philosophy, it’s the way she handled her absolutely worst haircut. I’ll never forget that fateful day; I was halfway dozing after a long day at work while the kids played, and Lucy was not happy with me because she wanted my attention. In her frustration, she took a pair of craft scissors and gave herself an Edward Scissorhands special, cutting her long, flowing ringlets from around her two pigtails nearly to the scalp in some places. When she realized what she had done, she began to cry. We took her to our family’s hair stylist Corie Butler, who cut what was left off into an extremely close pixie and dyed it Twilight Sparkle colors before dousing it with glitter. Lucy was thrilled with the outcome, and she was especially happy to no longer have the burden of keeping up with long, wild curls.

The best worst haircut ever.

For the next few months, Lucy received compliments on her hair everywhere she went. I don’t know if it was because it was so different to see a little girl with such a funky style or the boldness of the color, but people absolutely loved it. She never showed any regret for a second. What ended up being her favorite hairstyle ever would never have happened if she had not chopped off all of her hair in a fit of frustration. Of course, she taught me there’s no reason to sweat a bad haircut when you can just throw a little color and glitter on it. But there is a bigger lesson to take from this: Now when things go wrong, I try to remember that sometimes derailed plans or mistakes are what is necessary to push us down a path we never would have otherwise chosen.

4. Sometimes you have to destroy to create amazing things.

When I was a little kid, my mom would have beat me senseless if I had taken some paint or a sharpie to one of my dolls. Chalk it up to modern parenting, but we have taken a much more laissez-faire approach with our kids, allowing them to experiment with artful deconstruction and reconstruction on their toys and even clothing (as long as they ask first).

 

They’re her toys, after all.    

We didn’t always feel this way, but after watching Lucy’s obsession with creative YouTubers, we came to realize that the kids’ toys ultimately belong to them and that as long as they are not simply destroying them and throwing them away, applying creativity could be a positive way for the kids to interact with their toys and expand their minds.

One of Lucy’s favorite things to do is alter her stuffed animals to look like Five Nights at Freddy’s characters, taping over parts of her plush baby joey or stuffed duckling and coloring them to look like an eye patch or speaker. At first, I thought she was doing this because she did not own any FNAF plushies, but after she got several for Christmas, she continued to play around with altering her other toys. She explained to me that it’s fun to turn one thing into another and see the result; for her, it is not about mimicry but the artistic process.

5. Be who you want to be and people will love you for it.

We named Lucy after her grandmother, Betsey Lucille, and Shakespeare’s Juliet (Arthur’s middle name, Malcolm, is from Macbeth), but Lucy styled herself as Cupcake from a very early age, introducing herself thus: “I’m Lucy, but call me Cupcake.” In her imaginary YouTube videos, wherein she narrates her life, she refers to her viewers as “Cuppycakes,” a clear callback to Cookie Swirl C.

You can call her Cupcake.

We’ve always been pretty open to allowing our kids to dress and wear their hair the way they like, as Arthur’s long hair attests to, but Lucy has pushed those boundaries past the edges of our little flat earth, often wearing ears, hats, or face paint for the most mundane of social circumstances and sometimes convincing the rest of us to join her.

Lucy: Mom, wear your mermaid leggings with me so we can be matching mermaids.

Me: But we’re going to dinner at Mazzio’s with Mimo and Papi.

Lucy: Is it against the Mazzio’s rules?

Me: No.

Lucy: Do you like wearing mermaid leggings?

Me: Yes.

Lucy: Then you should wear them so we can have fun together.

Accessories are everything.

Lucy is so confident in herself and happy that she really isn’t concerned with what anyone might think, and it pays off. I’ll never forget the day we were at the kids’ school for an event. I overheard one of the moms at the registration table quietly saying through the loveliest accent, “Is she the mother of Lucy?” and then, to me, “Are you the mother of Lucy?” All the women at the table began gushing about how happy Lucy was, how unique and funny, and it hit me in a very personal place. As a child, I worried constantly about how to fit in, how to look like everyone else and not be noticed for being weird or different, and here is my beautiful daughter, beloved by so many people for her patent refusal to be like anyone else.

Lucy has helped me to believe in myself, to write the way I want to write and embrace my own gifts. My friend Shemora tells me a name is a prophecy, and without a doubt, Lucy has been a “bringer of light” to those around her.

6. Being fearless and fierce pays off.

When I think of Lucy as a preschooler, I picture her face caked in dirt, dust and tiny flowers matted into her long, golden curls. Lucy is the kind of person who constantly pushes herself to try new things, volunteers to go first, jumps in with both feet. When she was five years old, she grabbed a harness and rushed to the front of the Kanakuk Kampout zipline while her 8-year-old brothers were discussing how scary it looked. I was terrified she would get through the line, realize how high it was, and freak out, but before I knew it, she was zipping down that thing with a huge grin on her face.

Lucy has always loved touching rocks and earth.

Lucy is the first person to dance at a party, and she doesn’t care who is looking. In fact, it’s better if they are looking because she has someone to share the experience with. She’s the first person to jump in the fountain even if it means getting her dress soaking wet. If I go to gather firewood, she’s the one rallying the other two kids to help me, leading by her example. “I’m six,” she’ll say. “If I can do it, you can.” And I can’t tell you how many times Lucy’s persistence has convinced me to try things I would not have otherwise, from wearing purple lipstick to drawing manga to creating YouTube videos of my own. If I am ever successful in this life, I will have Lucy to thank for inspiring me to continue to push myself to try new things.

It’s easy to get caught up in the notion that children are protohumans, not capable of contributing anything of significance to the adult world around them. But this is their world as much as it is ours, and children are capable of so much more than we give them credit for. Although they are still learning and growing, children are constantly observing the world around them and taking in information, drawing conclusions and forming opinions about all they experience. I would like to challenge you to ask what you can learn from the children in your own life as you go through this week.

Thanks for reading and cheers!

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