I sat in the shade of a tree yesterday and watched you play.
Your tiny, blonde haired, two-year-old self was entirely absorbed in the transfer of dirt from a pot (which I had just planted with geraniums) to the dog’s food bowl and back again. You picked almost all of the blooms off my new flowers and I almost told you not to…but I didn’t.
While you decorated the dogs with flower petals and squealed at terrified lizards and made a thorough mess of everything freshly cleaned, I watched your slight body, the bounce of your long curls, the utter glee you expressed over things I had long forgotten were beautiful, things like frogs and dandelions and potting soil, and my eyes welled with tears and then I began to laugh and I am really glad you are not yet old enough to realize that your mother is strange.
The sudden emotion was because I realized in that moment how many things I wanted to tell you.
Here’s part of what I meant through that alter-language of emotion:
First, I want to set you free from the idea that you have to be pretty. Pretty is not a fundamental right, nor is it essential to developing your character. Reading will develop your character, traveling will and so will trying different things until you find what catches at your soul. There are no “every man deserves to feel beautiful” campaigns because pretty has nothing to do with who you are as a person. There is no way out of the beauty trap and no one wins. Steer clear, little one.
As far as the world is concerned, there is nothing I want more than to keep you safely in our own backyard and to protect you fiercely, but I cannot. The world is a dangerous place, but you, daughter, are dangerous as well. Do not fear the wolves in the forest. You are no sheep. You are not prey and anyone who insinuates otherwise is not worthy of your time. Leave them to their own locks and carry on with your keys.
Your body is so small right now and I marvel that so big a soul could rest in those slender depths. See, your soul is already that of a woman and women’s souls are muscled and wise. Your sisters before you fought wars and birthed babies and were blind thieves of freedom, slipping it silently from beneath heavy mattress of oppression and hiding it away like unlit matches.
So take that big soul of yours and burn, girl.
Light the whole world on fire if you want to, and do not apologize for the ashes.
I hope you fight for those without fire, too—those people who are locked behind steel bars of oppression.
The reason that you and I take bugs outside instead of squashing them in the house—except for that one time, but you didn’t see the pre-historic-sub-species of arachnid terror that joined us in the kitchen (and mamas make mistakes, you should totally just go ahead and prepare for many more). Anyway, the reason why we take bugs outside most of the time is not solely because your mother is weird, but because I want to develop in you a sense of compassion for even the most seemingly insignificant of lives.
I sincerely hope you keep loving hard and love who you want your entire life. Do not allow the brokenness of a shallow society to keep you from loving who you love. If other people don’t like it, that’s their burden to carry, not yours.
As a toddler, you cannot care less what color skin people have or how much money they make or what “socially acceptable” means. Be the same at 22 as well, no matter how much hell you have seen by then.
I want you to know that people are all blood and skin and soul and story. You are neither superior, nor inferior to anyone. You are traipsing through the same exact woods as the rest of humanity, you are caught in the same weather. Everyone has been maimed by the iron teeth of tragedy at some point in their lives. If people are not limping, they are lying.
As an addition to that statement, though, let me be clear that you should never, at any point, be afraid to be an anarchist, either. The American Dream is a skeletal standard for ambition. There is so much more to life that is free from materialism or false kinds of wealth. Follow Thoreau and so many others like him to a simpler existence.
Until it’s time for you to have to wade into your own oceans, I’ll keep watching over you, taking care of you and learning from you day after day after day. I hope my unconventionality does not embarrass you in the future. You think my long skirts and moon tattoos and bug relocations are fantastic now, but one day you might not, and that’s okay too. Being authentic to who you are can cause lots of ruckus, but, for me, authentic is the only life worth living.
Somehow, from the way I watch you dance (you inherited my white-girl rhythm, by the way… yeah, sorry…) to how you fling your 23 pound body off the ledge and into a swimming pool with no trace of fear, to how you clearly appreciate progressive fashion, which includes lady-bug boots with every possible outfit, I just don’t foresee you having a problem with your mother’s unconventionality. I hope not, anyway.
I love you, daughter.
Author: Meg Ainsworth
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Vivian Chen/Flickr