“When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself.” Wayne Dyer
I remember it so clearly: My first day at school with glasses. I was in eighth grade. I had chosen the thinnest, smallest, most nondescript wire frames I could find, in the hopes they would blend into my face, and maybe no one would notice. I refused to wear them until I absolutely had to, even though my eyesight was terrible. I remember pulling them out from their case in my English class and desperately trying to slip them on when no one was looking. Immediately after class, I would shove them back in their case, and proceeded to follow the blurred shapes back to my locker. I prefered being blind rather than admit that I had something else that made me stand out, that made me more vulnerable to being judged (aside from my crazy, untamed, frizzy hair and mouthful of braces…). All I wanted to do in middle school was blend in. Go unnoticed. Fly under the radar. I was so afraid of being judged, being seen as “other”, of not fitting in.
I couldn’t help but have the same thoughts and fears when my soon-to-be 7 year old returned to school this week, debuting her brand new glasses to her 2nd grade class. But instead of being nervous of what others would think or say, she was so unabashedly excited to show them to everyone. She even went so far as to craft her first day of school outfit around their cobalt blue color. A color that demanded to be seen and acknowledged.
She has no preconceived notions that she could or would be seen any differently than when she didn’t have glasses. To her, they are an instrument that help her see, and, better yet, they are a fashion accessory that adds another element to her already dynamic and inspired daily ensemble. She isn’t yet afraid to stand out. Just the opposite – She’s excited to.
And realizing this, I’m both so inspired, and yet so incredibly scared as a mother to this young, vibrant girl. I want so badly to shield her from the hurtful comments from her peers that I know will come in the next few years, and forever change the way she views herself. She is a girl growing up in America, and I know how American girls are “supposed” to be. They are to be beautiful, but in a non-confrontational way. Smart, but in a non-threatening way. Never too strong. Never too extraordinary. Never too vocal. And I don’t want her to know yet that she will be judged and measured in these ways. She is so much more than that which she will be judged for. And all I can do is hope that the judgement never stifles her creativity and drive to be seen for who she truly is.
The night before my husband was scheduled to take her to the eye doctor, I pointedly told him to let her pick whichever glasses made her feel the most beautiful. “No matter what they look like,” I said. But underneath that statement, even though I knew she wouldn’t, I had hoped she would pick a pair that were classic, small, nondescript. A pair that wouldn’t draw attention. When I saw the photo from the doctor’s office of her in her cobalt blue & hot pink rectangular lenses of choice, I was first in awe of how adorable she looked, but then almost immediately afraid for her. But I also know that imparting my own fears and worries about how society will perceive her doesn’t serve her. I never want her to think she should conform in order to strive to be normal, boring and forgettable. And me asking her to choose something other than what makes her feel most like herself, even though it comes from a place of love and wanting to protect her, would be imparting my own views of what is acceptable.
She came running up to me as I was writing this tonight, and exclaimed that only she and one other kid in her class (“maybe even the whole school!” she said in wide-eyed excitement) wears glasses! Yes, they make her stand out and subject to judgement, but she knows it is also something that makes her special and unique. Her glasses, and so many other things, set her apart from the norm. And today, my joy in seeing my daughter’s excitement and pride in being different overrides my worry.