My preschooler is getting fitted for glasses today. My little three-year-old with the perfect heart-shaped face and the dazzling Caribbean-blue eyes that make you love her the moment they lock onto your gaze. The eyes that grow to fill a room when she tells me about her day or gets to the “punch line” of a joke that doesn’t even make sense will soon be captives behind pink or purple glittery frames as if they’re in a Hello Kitty-themed prison–I’m letting her pick out whatever frames she wants, and I’m not in denial about the likely result (she is a fan of bold fashion statements).
They will become a part of her face; they’ll be exaggerated in caricature drawings of her at theme parks; they’ll be in our family pictures–and someday, some terrible day, she’ll break them or lose them and be without them for a short time, and we’ll say, “It’s crazy–you don’t look like ‘you’ without your glasses!” We’ll forget she wasn’t born with them, and that her eyes used to draw the attention of strangers because of their beauty, not because of an accessory that is somewhat unusual for a child her age to have. This breaks my heart.
I guess I’ve always been a conformist as far as outward appearance goes. I didn’t want people to have a reason to reject me before they even got to know me. The most important day of high school was when I got my braces off. I spray tan my alabaster skin in the summer because it will never tan naturally. My weight must be under 130 pounds. I am strict with my diet in my pregnancies, because one single stretch mark would be one too many for me. I dye my hair its natural color, because no one else I know of got metallic silver hair in 7th grade. I hold no one else to these standards–I don’t even notice these “flaws” in others, and I feel most comfortable around imperfect people. I just don’t want to stand out.
But if I think my conformity stops at image, I’m fooling myself. I’m a people-pleaser. I want to make loved ones happy, whatever it takes. As a child, that cost me my innocence. Now, it costs me my freedom. I can’t admit to being who I am; I’m locked into the person my parents raised me to be. All my life, I’ve built up relationships based on my faith. My parents see me as a trophy of their faithfulness. My church sees me as the exemplary product of its discipleship. My friends see me as an anchor for their own faith. I could never let these people down, so I just conform to exactly where they want me to fit in their world. I don’t ask questions openly. I don’t rock the boat. I don’t stand out. I don’t make bold choices–I don’t wear pink glittery glasses.
I hope things are different for my daughter. I hope that these glasses are a start. I hope that she won’t be a slave to conformity, and that she will feel a spark of excitement when she breaks the status quo. I hope to cultivate curiosity in her so that she won’t hold back her questions out of fear of being rejected or judged. I hope she is so confident in herself that she never hides who she really is from me, even if we disagree. Above all else, I hope she never gives up to someone things they didn’t have the right to ask for, for the sake of acceptance–whether that’s her body, her time, her belief, her doubts…I hope she will take ownership of those things, like she will with her glasses. I hope she clings to them proudly, even if they make her different–because they make her her.
So my prayer for pink glittery glasses (to no god in particular) is that they will help her to see beauty–in the physical world around her and in the things that make her unique. My prayer for pink glittery glasses is that they will help her to recognize danger–danger in the physical world that she sees with her eyes and the danger in sacrificing who she is to conform to the demands she perceives the world placing on her. My prayer for pink glittery glasses that I never wore is that they will help the child who wears them develop early confidence and a sense of self that doesn’t depend on looking like, feeling like, thinking like everybody else–so that she’ll be okay with standing out or challenging the system, and so she won’t reserve her honest thoughts for when she’s behind a curtain of anonymity on a WordPress blog about being a counterfeit.
May she always see clearly enough to recognize truth and challenge its imposter. May she always be bold enough to stand up for herself and her beliefs, whatever they are–even if they are not popular, and even if they are not mine or those of others she loves. And if any stereotype of kids in glasses rings true, may it be that she never stops seeking knowledge–even when it challenges what she thinks she knows, and even if it changes her. It changed me, but I’ll never tell–I can’t stop conforming to the only world I know. May that never be said of her–that is my prayer for pink glittery glasses.