My oldest daughter started kindergarten a few days ago. Just as when I was a kid, we went school clothes shopping and school supply shopping. She loved it – just as I recall loving it. And there is just something about all those shiny folders, pencils and ink-saturated-draw-yourself-a-rainbow new markers that makes school feel like a giant art project ahead. It's her first year of school and she seems to have this same feeling that I held throughout my school years.
So then why do I have this intense school-resistance for her?
In the dressing room as we shop for school clothes, we have skirts, vests, dingly-bob-hanging knee high socks, and very sparkly t-shirts piled on one another. She climbs on top of the bench where I sit and shimmies into a jean skirt, cocking her head to one side and pulling her longish hair forward over each shoulder. “This is definitely my style”, she says thoughtfully, smiling gently in the mirror at herself.
I smile – of course, how can you not? But there's something in the pit of my stomach. Is this really her style? There is no reason to think this isn't her natural, authentic style. She loves pink – and this t-shirt has plenty of pink! The headband she put on before the skirt keeps her long hair flowing near but not on her face – and she loves long hair. So, we're good… nothing wrong here.
Yet I know it's all shifting right now. Actually, it's been shifting. She decidedly knows what she loves – and it is already heavily influenced by messages from all around (even my two year old asked me the other day if a little girl was a little boy – simply because she had short hair). I want her to keep this abandoned certainty – “This is definitely my style” – all her life. Yet I know from my work, my own experience and thousands of hours of conversation with women and men about living authentically that over time we get confused over what authentic means for us.
I wonder how I can help her stay tuned to what she genuinely loves – regardless of the tides of outside influence…