Ten years ago Brave Writer held a Mom’s Writing Contest and the Grand Prize Winner was Jean Hall who went on to become one of our first writing instructors (she started in 2007)!
Jean is a veteran instructor of high school students and an expert at helping students become proficient in the SAT and ACT timed writing tests. Jean teaches: Advanced Composition 1, SAT/ACT Essay Class, Expository Essay Class , and Kidswrite Intermediate.
Here is Jean’s award winning essay:
Today, I bought my daughter ugly pants.
I didn’t plan to buy ugly pants. I certainly didn’t wake up this morning thinking, “You know, what we really need around here are uglier clothes for the children. Maybe some horrible pants!”
But my 10-year-old angel has a cute smile, and she is blessed with more persuasive skills than fashion sense.
It started with an innocent family trip through Target. While my husband and the boys looked at something distinctively manly, I stood browsing the swimsuits at the other edge of the aisle with my daughter and her best friend. Suddenly, their attention was drawn further into the clothing department by a rack of knit gauchos. A point. A squeal. Suddenly, the girls were no longer at my side. I shuddered and followed reluctantly.
I should explain that I have worn gauchos before. Somewhere along the fashion timeline that defines my place in history, gauchos were stylish, although I can’t pinpoint the exact date. It was definitely between the green double knit pantsuits I wore to start kindergarten in the mid-70’s and the purple velvet harem pants I wore to start college in the late 80’s. My childhood education is with conspicuous pants in fashion at both bookends.
Where did the gauchos fall in relation to the zipper-infested parachute pants? Were they before the yoke-front Lee jeans with legwarmers? After those goofy stirrup pants? Some of the fashions blur together. They were all cool at the time. Gauchos stand out in my mind because they were a style I hated even when I was wearing them. You see, I am a little sister. I grew up in hand-me-downs. Nothing unusual about that really. But gauchos came in to style at a time I was coming into self consciousness, and I wore them 2 years after most people had moved on. Gauchos made me conspicuous. I was different. I was snickered at and I knew it. An uncomfortable place to be.
Flash forward to 2006. I’m emotionally secure, and I sometimes choose to wear hand-me-downs. I outgrew the awkward stage of student trying to fit in with the other kids (somewhat after I outgrew the gauchos). But when my little girl pulled out a pair and begged to try them on, my instinctive reaction was to scream, “NO!” I wanted to tell her how truly dreadful those are. No daughter of mine is going to be seen in public in those.
But I didn’t. Because in that 10-year-old girl asking me for a pair of pants that I hated, I saw a quickly growing young lady with an overwhelming sea of decisions to make in her lifetime. In a few years, she could be choosing a wedding gown, not to mention a man to stand next to her in a tux. She will choose a college, a career, a church, a home, an identity. I want her to make those choices with the confidence and skill that comes from practice.
But there was more to it than just letting her learn to make choices. Within me, I have a strong moral code, a set of values, a standard I want to instill deeply in my children which will benefit them. I also have quirks, prejudices, and emotional hang-ups which will not. I want to teach my daughter, but not to force this matchless child into a me-shaped mold. My personal hang-ups are irrelevant to her. Why should she hate these pants because of my bad memories? That makes no more sense than teaching her to hate basketball because my coach benched me during a tournament, or to hate Jeeps because my ex-boyfriend drove one. These are not helpful guidelines for her.
My daughter adored the gauchos. And I told her she was beautiful in them, which she was. I chose not to burden her with my baggage; I’ll carry it myself. I separated her individuality from mine. It was the bravest thing I’ve done in awhile.
I will let her walk away from me as her own person. She will walk away with her own preferences and passions. Her own quirks. Her own hang-ups. Her own sense of style.
And her very own ugly pants.
Jean’s 2016 postscript to her essay: My daughter, now 20, still has a sense of personal style and a confident sense of who she is. She’s made most of the decisions I mention in the essay…except she walked away from the man she first wanted to marry because he insisted that she change to be more like him. And she said no. So I think that the goal I set out in the essay can be stamped successful.