Several years ago, my daughter, who was way too young to appreciate diplomacy, or sensitivity, or even, kindness to her tired mother, was watching me dress in my bedroom and out of the blue in her sweet little sing-song guile-less voice stated, “Mommy, you look better with your clothes on.”
There was no point in arguing, she had me on that one. So I said,
“Yeah, I know, I’m squishy.”
and she replied, “I like you that way. Please don’t get skinny.”
In the same year, my son came off the bus, visibly upset. When I asked him why, he told me a bigger boy on the bus had called him a ‘pencil.’ And then he added indignantly, “Mom, that’s not all! He called you fat.”
Again, there was no point in arguing. So I said, “I am fat. So what?”
It took the wind right out of his sails. Stopped him short. I won’t ever forget the look on his face.
“I’m also funny and smart and a good cook, and very loving. If my fat is all that kid can see, that shows his limitations, not mine.”
He told me he still wanted to kick him. I didn’t chastise him. Call my son a Pencil. Hurrrumph.
But the lesson then and onwards is that we do not have to accept other people’s definitions of us because they are so inadequately limited.
Especially since life is so dynamic. We never stay in one spot long enough to be definable.
I am not a ‘nerd’, but I certainly have nerdy moments. I’m not a ‘genius’, but I’ve been pretty darn smart occasionally. I’m not a ‘hero’, but I’ve had many a save. I’m not a ‘perfect mom,’ but I’ve managed to raise some fabulous little people.
I don’t feel the need to label or define myself. Or deny truths when they come along. So I’m overweight; So I look better with my clothes on; So I have to take her word for it when the lady at the nail salon tells me my toes look good (unless I bend waaaaay over).
Back to my son that day he came off the bus. That night as I was cuddling him to sleep, I said, “Hey, you know how that kid called you a Pencil?”
His little body tensed and he whispered, “Yes.”
“Well, ARE you?”
“Am I what?”
“Are you a Pencil.”
“No Mom!” he laughed, and his little body relaxed against mine.
“Then why do you care what he said? You know who you are. Why would you care what he thinks?”
“Because I’d rather be a Marker. A red marker.”
It’s hard to be a philosopher in a family of pragmatists.