As the mother of two girls, I already find myself aware of their looks, and I try very hard to ignore them. Some days my girls are the sweaty, booger-faced kids on the playground. Some days, like today, they go to school with garden dirt underneath their nails and cat hair on their clothes. I let them both pick out their outfits in the morning, and sometimes F prances downstairs in a blinding array of patterns that make my eyes bleed, and yet I'm proud of her for wearing what makes her feel good, even if it is a too-small pair of grass-stained shorts over striped tights, paired with cowboy boots and a second hand t-shirt.
Me, at hair time: Tell me your vision.
F: I want pig tails, three ribbons, and a clip in my hair.
Me: Let's do this.
This weekend F got stung by a black fly. Three of them, actually. And one bite made her right eye swell COMPLETELY SHUT. She looked like Sloth from the Goonies. She kept her good eye VERY WIDE OPEN, maybe so that it could work extra hard; I'm not sure.
Come Monday she still couldn't see.
Me, overly happy about the idea: You can stay home with me!
F, annoyed: No. I want to go to school.
Me: But you can only see out of one eye? And you're hopped up on Benadryl.
F, eating yogurt, staring me down with her good eye: I don't care.
Me: People might ask you about it - is that okay?
F, rolling her good eye: I don't care!
I worried, briefly, that she'd get made fun of at school, and had to fight the urge to "save" her from this. But I felt so proud of her for not worrying about it, and I wanted to honor the pluck, the lack of self-consciousness. And I knew I had to shut my mouth before I gave her that self-consciousness. What a nasty gift.
At F's age (4), I'm learning, a wound is collateral. Battle scars are cool, conversation starters, rites of passage. The more grotesque the better. I cringe when I remember going to school after the orthodontist, wanting to wear my "head gear" orthodontics, which were really supposed to be worn at night. What the heck was I bragging about there? My suffering, I think. Oh world. Look how I have suffered and endured. Look at my gear.
And the fact that F's swollen face happened to land on school picture day? Even better. F's wonky eye - but most importantly her pluck - is immortalized.