Growing up, I was that little girl with mud on her face, bruises on her knees, and boy’s shoes on her feet that were 2 sizes too big. I never cared what people thought about my nappy ponytail or dirty boy clothes, I just wanted to play; and be happy and carefree while doing so.
One day, I began to realize that the older you get, the less this is acceptable. By the time I hit the age of 12, I began to realize that conformity brought comfort in our society; so I conformed away. I changed my hair, invested in a padded bra, and decided to give mascara a try. There was no turning back! The older you got, the worse your skin started to look, the more makeup, padded bra’s, and other types of support were needed. Only now do I realize all of that is a load of crap.
I began working with kids in March of last year. I have always been fascinated by how children are born so pure, innocent, and eager to learn; until they’re tainted by the modern world of unprecedented rules, expectations, and judgments. I’ve had the pleasure of working with children that are open, creative, and ready to take on the world… as well as those children whose creativity had been stifled by schools that favor academics over exploration, and parents who expect far too much from their 3 year old toddlers.
Working with children has taught me that life is fragile. We must cherish the days with our toes in the sand and our hair a tangled mess. Kids have taught me that conformity is a “societal norm” that is not normal at all. Sometimes my nephew forgets his underwear and says – “It’s more comfortable without them.” I totally agree.
Kids don’t feel sorry for hugging and kissing their best friend and saying “I Love You”. They don’t worry about being called “gay” for expressing their untainted love. Adults create this tainted judgmental world where love is only acceptable under “normal” circumstances. Children understand that love is love, no matter the color, gender, or disability. Children lack filters (which is necessary in grown up life) but they aren’t afraid to set boundaries, and they get upset when those boundaries are crossed. Adults can learn from that.
Society makes it a stigma to go outside without doing your hair or “putting your face on.” Dozens and dozens of headlines swirl around saying “Check Out These Celebrities With NO Makeup On! Shocking Photos.” We are telling women, and young women at that, that natural is no longer beautiful. Our new form of “natural” is artificial. We tell women it’s not okay to have hairy legs or armpits, even though we were born with hair follicles in those places. We tell people it’s not okay to be free, it’s not okay to be you, and this is what we teach our children.
Instead of teaching our kids to be afraid of who they are, we should be embracing it the way they embrace it from the start. Children have taught me that I shouldn’t care what others think about my hairstyle or my lack of makeup. I shouldn’t be ashamed of the pimple on my face.
Once a child asked me “What’s that Ms. Brooke?” I replied, “It’s a pimple.” She questioned “A pimple? I like it, it’s red.”
Isn’t that a better way to look at that pimple then to be humiliated?
Kids have shown me the fun of mismatched socks, and reminded me that temporary tattoos are NOT just for kids. Children have shown me how therapeutic running through mud, jumping in a bouncer, and rolling down a hill at the park can be. I remember how calming and centering finger painting can be – I have done so recently and it’s so much fun! I can remember how exciting it was to be able to help a parent or grandparent with cooking. Ceramics, painting, cooking, music – all of these activities are truly enriching for children, and they can be enriching for us too.
More than anything, kids have taught me to ALWAYS be myself, and to always love me; to cherish my friends, to never fear asking questions or looking stupid; children have taught me to be free. So go ahead; turn up the music, dance in your undies. Grab a piece of paper and finger paint with your kids. Grab a ball of clay and make your favorite animal. Children have taught me not to forget creativity and replace it with conformity. I’m sick of judging uniqueness and cherishing sameness, it’s time to let that stigma go!
Be free and be you, always.