When I was little, I loved to wear skirts. Specifically, twirly skirts. The kind that poof out and dance around you when you spin.
Then, in fourth grade, I scored a part in the chorus of Hansel and Gretel—the play my school was putting on that year. As part of my costume, I got to wear this fantastically twirly skirt. It was green, and it swirled like no other skirt I’d ever had before.
On the day of dress rehearsal, I put it on and began to dance around and around the classroom, delighting in the sheer wonder of it. Until, that is, my friend told me to cut it out. I’ll always remember her words; “Stop that, Amber. You look dumb. Besides, I can see your underpants.”
The music in my mind screeched to a halt, as did my twirling. My joy was replaced with shame and self-consciousness. I don’t think I ever danced in public again—at least, not with that kind of abandon.
Now, I’m always aware of the eyes on me, and I move stiffly, knowing that I’m no dancer. Somewhere along the way, I also became ashamed of my singing voice—I couldn’t tell you why. I almost never sing where anybody can hear me, and if I do, I sing off key on purpose, just so no one will think I’m trying to do it well.
I don’t want that for my daughter. I want to teach her to take joy in her body. To move when the spirit is in her. To never, ever stop dancing. I want her to sing, too. With happiness, with abandon, with confidence.
I want her to believe in faeries, and goblins, and even monsters, if she wants to. I want her to indulge in daydreams, and to thrill in the power of her own imagination.
I want her to believe in her own beauty—no matter what the outside world says. I want her to be able to shrug off careless comments and cutting words, knowing that they’re just the product of small minds.
Above all, I want her to be true to herself. To be strong enough to rise above peer pressure and societal conventions when necessary, and follow her gut. I want her to be able to make her own decisions, and to have the courage to follow her dreams.
I want a lot for my daughter. And to help her achieve those things? I’m trying to set a good example.
We dance whenever we get a chance. I sing to her, loudly, happily (and sometimes tunelessly), just to see her smile. I tell her stories, and spend quiet moments with her nestled against me, chasing the movies in my mind.
I’m trying to be nicer to myself (sometimes more successfully than others), focusing on the positives, and refusing to be blinded by the negatives.
Before making a decision, I’m taking the time to check in with my inner voice, taking my own advice more often than not. I’m standing up for myself more, and being a doormat less.
I’m getting in touch with the me I could have been, maybe should have been. And you know what? I like her. A lot.
So watch out, world. I’m letting loose—and next spring, I’m going to buy a twirly skirt…and I’m going to teach my little girl how to spin and spin and spin…