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  • Writer's pictureJaye Gaff

The most important thing my toddler taught me: to be myself

I must confess that I was having some trouble writing this. Nothing was clicking and so, I went to my daughter B, age four, for help. This is about her after all. I asked her for a list of things she's taught me and she counted them off, raising a finger as each one passed.

"I taught you how to count. And your letters and numbers," she said. "Was that it?" I asked. She thought for a minute, lips pursed together in deep concentration, and sighed. Then, finally, she lifted the last finger and said, "I taught you how to run around, like exercise". And with that, she was off.

I've pondered those things for a few days now, smiling all the while because the answers are intrinsically B. Ridiculous and mostly nonsensical. Weird and wacky. That is my daughter.

She has enviably long lashes and a small smattering of freckles on her little button nose. She is clever and always busy; independent and good with others. She loves chatting to adults, too, as if she already feels too grown up to bother conversing with kids.

She loves dressing up in costumes and wants to be a doctor — or Belle from Beauty and the Beast — when she grows up. Yes, she's only four, but she's kind of my role model.

B is always herself. She is silly and she owns it. She picks her nose and leaves the boogers in either her hair or her ear "for later". We are so different and yet, so alike. She is me and I am her.

But, while she was born owning her weird, I wasn't. In fact, I very much thought that I wasn't "mother material" because mothers don't dance in public and they don't listen to the Frozen soundtrack on repeat and they most certainly don't encourage food fights and wear bunny ears while doing so. Except they do, because that's me.

One of my favourite mantras in life is taken from Oscar Wilde: "Be yourself, everyone else is already taken", and it's something I'm constantly reciting to B. Yet, while I was reminding her to always be herself, I was silently telling myself to ignore the sound advice. "Don't be yourself. Be someone else. Because you're weird."

What I loved most in B, I hated most in myself. And I hated that. So one day I challenged myself to look in the mirror and see what B saw. I chose to see someone with the same nose and the same smattering of freckles. The same smile. The same mischievous laugh. The same giggle.

We both have our own spin on life but, for the most part, B and I are one and the same. We both believe that a slice of cake loses its value after being cut so must be gobbled down immediately. When we're sad we both know to grab the Nutella and two spoons and dig into it together until the pain disappears.

We're both frustratingly impatient. We both dance the same and feel the need to randomly jump or hop for no reason. Seeing myself in B made me love myself because that kid is awesome and if I have one ounce of that in me then I have nothing to be ashamed of.

B, without even knowing it, encourages me to always be myself. She is a wonderfully loving soul who tells me countless times a day she loves me. To her, I am a rock star; the woman who loves her unconditionally and loves the same things she does.

She doesn't let me get away with lying to myself or hating my weird, so I don't. I can't. Because if I'm hating my weird, aren't I hating hers too?

Perhaps, one day I'll be that annoying or embarrassing mum, but for now I'm really enjoying having a buddy I can be weird with and who'll be just as weird with me.

I hope that when she's an adult she'll keep some of that kid-like wonder that I've now refused to give up. I hope she'll still be that adorable weirdo who proclaimed for months that a cucumber was her best friend. I hope she'll never be ashamed of liking The Beatles, Rammstein and Disney Princesses, too.

My kid is my greatest achievement. She makes life wonderfully corny and I love it. B has shown me unconditional love. She's shown me how to be myself and how to love myself. And, of course, let's not forget that she's shown me how to count and exercise. I'll try not to think about how I survived twenty-seven years without those skills.

*previously published on Ninemsn Pickle

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