I, like many creative types, am a creature of multiple roles and faces, actions, abhorrence, and procrastination. In one iteration of existence I find myself volunteering time with my daughter’s troop and navigating among the voracious fiends of motherhood, ie – the Righteous Mothers. It came to pass that one of these monoliths of indignation found that my friend and I were recruiting “the wrong kind of girls” for the troop.
What is the wrong kind of 9-year old? How many kinds of 9-year olds are there? The answer my mind first landed on was more to address what makes them wrong?
The girls she referred to, new to the troop, did not know the promise or the pledge. They did not sit and await instruction like those who had worn the badges since kindergarten. They were in a constant state of correction: sit down, stop dancing, stop talking, pay attention, that’s too much ink… The message of wrongness was repeated in every correction: you are living this moment incorrectly. You are supposed to be happy and polite, kind and considerate, patient and subdued, but most of all be still like the apostles at the feet of Jesus listening to me.
At the other table sit the daughters of the Righteous Mothers, the troop veterans, whispering quietly to each other and ducking their heads as they smile so as to not get caught. I recall being told again and again, not by the girls themselves, but by the Righteous Mothers what these girls like and don’t like, would and would not be willing to do, and of course what this experience should be. Skill-building first, fun later. The girls themselves however have risen to every occasion when given the opportunity. In so many meetings, I have seen these girls wide eyed and amazed when we give them lead to explore or invent or create and – heaven forbid – make a mess of themselves.
Selfishly, I picked at my own scabs of being muted. I recounted all of the people who had tried to remold me, to help me be better, to stop living my moments incorrectly. Some said speak up, quiet down, wear more make-up, some said less but at least better clothes and be sexy but not a slut. Writing was considered a cute pastime and a personality quirk instead of a vocation… The phrase ‘you should’ becomes a warning shot in every conversation. Everyone says exercise and be your best self! I am not sure that there is enough of me left to be a self, let alone the best version.
Maybe the best version of myself was when I had not internalized all of these directions, like these girls who can’t stop laughing. Like these 9 year olds who incorrectly smile all the time and are inspired to talk instead of waiting their turn. Like these “wrong kinds of girls” who are a constant force of motion and expression. I have the opportunity to put the mute off and instead, redirect the energy from destruction to creation because in this raw form, these young girls are capable of both.
And that is why my daughter and I are being ousted to a new troop with the rest of these “wrong type of girls” where we may not earn many badges but at the very least, we won’t be told we are wrong when we are comfortable in our own skin. What if they could hold on to enough of themselves to define what they feel is their best self?