This Fall, I had the misfortune of being a work widow for about two months. My husband was working extremely long hours during the week and at least eight hours a day on the weekends. But what it did give me was some special experiences with my daughter.
One such experience happened in mid-October. My daughter and I had met friends at a Fall Festival in High Point one Saturday morning and then found ourselves with nothing to do in the afternoon. So I drove to Ramseur (a 45-minute drive with a potty training toddler) to Millstone Creek Orchards, recommended by a random person I met while getting my nails done earlier in the week.
It was a beautiful day. A bit warm for Fall, but very nice for being outside. We played on the tire swing, painted miniature pumpkins, and went on a hayride. At the end of the hayride, we were able to choose pumpkins to pick from the pumpkin patch. I, of course, wanted a set of three nicely rounded orange pumpkins in various sizes and similar shapes. As I took in the patch searching for the perfect pumpkins, my daughter ran up to the first one she saw and said “Mommy! This one is beautiful!” And then she ran to another and said “Mommy! This is my favorite!” She continued to move from pumpkin to pumpkin exclaiming its perfection as if each was better than the last.
But what I noticed was that each pumpkin was flawed. Some were flat on one side; others were discolored. And the one my daughter loved the most was a small, knotty pumpkin that had likely been tossed to the side and for very good reason. She insisted that it was the most beautiful pumpkin in the patch and it was hers! So we gathered up our loot (me with a smooth set of three and her with a small knotty beast) and started to leave the patch.
On the way, I snapped a photo of my daughter who was extremely pleased with herself for choosing the most beautiful pumpkin in the patch. Beside her was another small child who had an equally ugly pumpkin. They were both oblivious to the flaws that these pumpkins obviously had. And suddenly I paused.
Why was this pumpkin ugly? Because it didn’t meet the requirements that I had set forth? And what had I experienced that overrode the nature of finding beauty in everything? Nature versus nurture is so fascinating to me, and here it was right in front of me. I was a product of society saying that anything that was different was ugly. But my parents never told me that. As a matter of fact, I don’t recall ever hearing that. But I sure was a victim of this lesson, and I was perpetuating it without realizing it. I chose unblemished pumpkins. And while I didn’t say a word to my daughter about the pumpkin she chose, she undoubtedly, over time, would learn that different equals ugly. So I put my round, perfect pumpkins back. And I chose a flat-sided orange pumpkin and a squatty white pumpkin and took them home.
I have to admit that this lesson did not undo 42 years’ worth of nurture. I looked at those pumpkins on my kitchen buffet and cringed. I can’t even tell you how many times I arranged all the pumpkins (my flat pumpkin, my white pumpkin, my daughter’s knotty pumpkin, and don’t forget . . . the one we painted) in order to make them look better. If only I could have seen them through my daughter’s eyes.
Through this experience, I realized that I am tasked with SHOWING my daughter that different does not equal ugly. Words are not enough.