I love wildflowers, especially in unexpected places. When we lived in Italy, the countryside was full of them in the spring. While there, I spent a lot of time riding my bike and stopped during almost every ride to take a picture of a field of flowers. For the most part, the fields were homogeneous and the same flower took over. However, there were times when one unique flower in that field stuck out from the rest. Those were my favorites.
Growing up, I always assumed that, when I had a family, I would have a bunch of daisies. Our community was not strictly daisies, but I was a daisy and my family was a bunch of daisies, so it just made sense. I never thought to question that and never paid much attention to anything that wasn’t a daisy.
Then the time came and from the moment I found out I was pregnant, we knew we would have a poppy. The pregnancy was not much different from any other first pregnancy, or so I assumed, and I fielded the typical and sometimes inappropriate questions from strangers. Was it planned? Will I find out the gender? What type of birth do I plan on having? The odd questions came as well. I bet she will be great at this. Are you planning on taking a class to figure out how to do that? Most of the questions came from parents of daisies, though I know they weren’t trying to be offensive. I have since learned that curiosity gets the best of people and they often don’t realize the things that come out of their mouths.
Our poppy arrived and was as perfect as could be and, for the moment, it was as if she was a daisy. She didn’t know she was a poppy; however, the rest of the world did and began to treat her accordingly. Similar to the way gender stereotyping starts soon after birth, our daughter was already put in that “poppy” box. Where did you “get” her? How are you going to be able to deal with this or that? Don’t you wish that she had this quality like you? Sometimes there are gross overgeneralizations as well. Wow! Poppies are always so beautiful. I realize that last one is a nice comment but there are so many more qualities to focus on in a person.
As the years went on, she began to realize that she was different as well. That truly has been the most difficult part to handle. As the saying goes, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but my daughter’s disappointment in something so permanent will always break my heart!” She is a wonderful poppy and doesn’t need to be a daisy. The question is, how do we teach her to believe that?
Conformity isn’t the only way. It is okay to march to the beat of your own drum. She is good at this one in many ways, but still sees those daisies hanging out where the grass is always greener. Sometimes it feels like the world is geared toward daisies. Often this is the case, but that doesn’t squash the beauty of being a poppy. Also, things are getting better where this is concerned. For instance, advertisements used to be full of nothing but daisies. However, poppies are represented more and more. This is good for you and for the daisies, too. Every child (and adult) should be able to embrace diversity.
Courage comes in many forms. Stand up for yourself and for others. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Hang out with people who make you feel good about yourself. Childhood—and life, for that matter—is too short to be with people who do not lift you up and make you the best poppy you can be.
Your opinion of yourself is what matters most. Others’ insecurity may be hard to ignore, but it doesn’t define you. I once read that even though the “mean girl” is truly mean, everyone else wants to hang out with her because they do not want to be on the receiving end of her behavior. Try not to waste your time with that. Remember that no matter what anyone says, self-acceptance is what matters most. We are all unique and that is what makes us great.
Eventually you will find your own field of poppies. But until then, help your poppy distinguish the stifling, life-sucking weeds from the other daisies and poppies. Help them focus on the good and ignore or repel the bad. Cherish and reinforce their desire to be independent and creative with their choices. There were awkward kids in high school. For whatever reason, they may have been rejected or neglected by their peers. Those poppies moved on to college and found their niche—mingling with hydrangeas, peonies, dahlias, and maybe even orchids! Eventually, she will turn a corner because of the confidence you instilled, and find more poppies than she ever knew existed in one field. I just hope she doesn’t spend too much time trying to be a daisy on this journey.
Help educate others on what it means to be a poppy. Ignorance brings about fear: “Is this poppy full of bugs?” “Will my stems get all curly if I touch her?” I realize this is mainly my job right now, but she can learn to do the same. When people ask about being a poppy or comment on poppy qualities, I need to take the time to talk about it—even if I want to respond in a sarcastic manner. Demystify things that daisies do not understand. Explain why it is different or how it is the same.
In the end, we know that poppies come in many shapes and forms. From culture and ethnic background to socioeconomic differences to disabilities, they are everywhere. I was something of a poppy in my own way while growing up. I spent too much time trying to be like the daisies, but can safely say I finally embraced the differences. I still feel a little poppy-ish, but my husband is sure that is why I attract so many other wildflowers—because I am so different. It is important to remember that while some kids are different from the norm all of the time, all kids experience feeling like an outsider some of the time. If you are raising a poppy, give her what she needs to grow. If you are raising a daisy, remind her that all wildflowers are beautiful in their own way.