My job isn't to tell her that she will be looked at for being different.
It isn't to make sure that she gives a damn what other people think about her quirks or her style. Positive or not, when we decide to stand out, we better be prepared to be seen because we will be. That damn she isn't giving right now? I'm giving it for her.
When she was little, red cowboy boots with a pink tutu and a super hero cape just meant it was time to go to the grocery store. She went to preschool more times than I can count in her Snow White costume dress. That was just par for the course. Little old ladies chuckled and other kids ignored the normalcy of a preschooler dressed up for the sake of dressing up. But she's older now, my girl. Once, I even grounded her from dressing up in public because she didn't like kind strangers referring to her as a princess...while dressed as a princess. This is our normal.
We homeschool, too. I know what some people think; that she isn't socialized and that she needs to be in a public school setting in order for that to happen. Maybe that's why, I think they may be thinking, she's almost nine and wearing bat wings to run errands in town. Maybe that's why she likes the music she likes and watches the television shows that she watches. Because she isn't around other kids her age. Because she doesn't know better.
I stop myself when I get on this train of thought, because I eventually realize the only issue here is my own emotional baggage. I'm the one who is always hyper-aware of the fact that I wonder what other people are thinking of me. I'm the one who always felt like an outsider in school, not sure where to sit in the cafeteria or which group to play with during recess. I'm the one who declined softball tryouts in high school only because I couldn't possibly wear that uniform if I made the team. Those pants...they showed every curve.
A few years ago, I read an essay in which the writer made fun of the homeschooled teen babysitter for skipping through the sprinklers on her walk home. I remember reading and thinking how I wished I had been that teenager and wondered why the one thing we value as adults - individuality and creative spirit and an unshakable sense of self - we try to crush out of our children? What's wrong with skipping through the fucking sprinklers? I wish I could stop thinking about how others see me long enough to do that myself.
But this isn't just about my kid rocking her bat wings in public because it makes her happy, it's also about making she understands there's a price to pay for choosing to skip through the sprinklers. My job is to make sure she understands that being her own person comes with responsibility and self-respect. You do you, baby girl. But know that people may look. Sometimes they may point. Maybe they say something mean. Maybe they high five you because they like to grocery shop wearing bat wings, too. Others may dance when they think nobody is watching. But not you. You create your own music and dance knowing that people are, baby girl, and that makes my heart sing. Always hold your head high and handle yourself with grace.
And never, ever, stop matching to your own beat.