When my daughter was six-years old she often spent her afternoons with her best friend Brianna. Brianna’s grandmother was a nice enough lady who often carted the girls around on errands after school. One day during a particularly lively play date Brianna’s grandma said to my daughter, “Melia, you are weird!”
My first reaction was to belt the woman. Who did this cleaning lady think she was to say something potentially hurtful to my lively, funny, beautiful daughter? The violent reaction, thankfully, faded very quickly. In its place was the reality I had long ago learned to embrace: weirdness doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
I had felt like a social outcaste in my two-parent, multiple-child, no-divorce neighborhood all through elementary school. My parents were not only divorced, but they left me to be raised, alone, by my grandparents. I felt as though I spent my entire childhood trying to apologize for my weirdness by doing whatever I could think of to fit in. Very little of it worked, and I probably seemed even weirder and I know I was uncomfortable in my own skin.
By the time I arrived at Junior High and met many, many other weird kids, I began to finally see that not everyone was normal. In fact that was the same year that the divorces began in my neighborhood and within a few years there were new families blending on every street.
By the eighth grade I was almost completely comfortable in my own skin, or at least I knew how to fake it very well. My best friend and I even wore leprechaun costumes to school for St. Patrick’s Day, complete with giant, green homemade top hats. We were very well received as most kids were in awe of our willingness to appear silly in public. In high school I discovered the drama department and the Rocky Horror Picture show and my comfort level with my own weirdness was nearly complete.
When it came time to raise my own daughter, I wanted her to feel comfortable with herself from the onset. I hoped to surround her self-esteem with the kind of mental cement that would keep her safe and secure even when she traveled outside of home So when she told us the story of being called weird, I told her that the next time someone called her that to thank them. After all, weird was a good thing, a compliment really. It meant she was an individual, not the same as everyone else, but in a good way.
It worked. Many people since have hurled the weird comment her way. Each time she accepts and embraces it, it deflates them and empowers her.
She has been called weird many times since and thanked every single person. By copping to and embracing her differences willingly, she doesn’t waste time apologizing for being herself or wallowing in the worry that people won’t like her for who she is. Despite the normal adolescent bumps, she is pretty comfortable in her own skin and the mental cement is intact.
My daughter and I are both weird, thank you very much.