What Prince and Misty Copeland taught me about my middle schooler today

What Prince and Misty Copeland taught me about my middle schooler today

I love how our children teach us. When my daughter was younger, her curriculum for me was focused more on the broad picture and about best practices to the general approach to life. She covered topics like “stop and smell the roses,” “notice the little things,” and “lose yourself in joy.”

Lately, though, I’ve been surprised how the lessons from my daughter, who is now a teen, are less about the big picture (though there is still some of that) and more based in fact. She is sharing information that is new to me, telling me things I didn’t know.

When I picked her up from school today, I shared the sad news that Prince died.  She had been aware of that and when I asked her how she knew, ready to jump all over how phones are not allowed to be used in school, she said, “The principal told me.”

I was curious, so I asked how that conversation went down.

Seems the principal shared the news with a group of kids in the library and my daughter was the only one who knew who he was. My daughter then impressed the principal by naming a few of his greatest hits. I beamed with pride.

“You’re in band, right? That’s how you know,” the principal said to her.

At this point, I interrupted my poor child and indignantly sputtered, “What?! But what about your mother? I taught you about the musical genius that is Prince!”

My daughter tried to reassure me, “She doesn’t even know my name, Mom, so I just smiled and nodded.”


“But then I told her all about his collaboration with Misty  Copeland. And how he really inspired her and gave her the confidence she needed to come into her own as an artist.” My eighth grader went on a while longer talking about how Prince emphasized both artistic freedom and attention to detail when working with Copeland, and that he gave her confidence by encouraging her to make both her own decisions and art.

We came to a stop sign, and I tried to swallow my surprise, both that she knew all of this and how very grown up she sounded discussing it.

“Where did you hear about all that?”

“I read it in Misty Copeland’s autobiography. Remember I read it last summer?” she prompted.

I did remember her reading that book. Truth be told I probably would have said “reading” with air quotes prior to this conversation with her because last summer, she didn’t seem all that into that book. Whenever I asked her about it, she gave me vague murmurs.  A few days ago, I expressed concern about the child’s reading comprehension skills and now here she was, very clearly recalling passages of a book she read nearly a year ago.

Not only did I learn about Prince and Misty Copeland from my daughter, I learned about her, too.

I learned that far more goes on beneath the surface with her than I am aware of. While that wasn’t a new lesson, it smacked me in the face a bit today. My daughter’s inner life is only to grow and deepen. That’s exactly as it should be, but it’s a shift, and a rather substantial one, from the girl who wanted to share every single thought and experience with me.

The distance between us causes a few twinges in my heart, but the pride at watching her develop into her own person more than makes up for it.

I also earned that she can appreciate icons and the art they create in a way that is unique to her.

When we got home, I picked Copeland’s book off the shelf and read how Prince’s faith and trust in her made a huge difference in how she saw herself, as a ballerina and as a person. I am reminded that I need to give my daughter room to soar whenever possible, and that doing so can give her confidence.

In the past, her experience of pop icons and popular individuals aside from One Direction has been through me or through our family experience of them. But she now has her own connections and attachment, and she values them, but for entirely different reasons. I love that, and I’m grateful she still shares her unique perspective with me.

Prince also told Misty Copeland to not be afraid to shine and to not be too modest. I tell my daughter I want her to be humble and kind, but reading that reminded me that I also need to tell her that she can do that while also embracing her awesomeness.

I also learned that her reading comprehension is fine, when she’s reading about a topic in which she is interested.

As Prince said, “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life.”

His death serves as a reminder of how short and fragile this thing called life really is. His work with Misty Copeland, as told to me by my 13-year-old, reminds me of the positive impact we can have when gathered together. And my daughter today reminded me how lucky I am to have her as one of my dearly beloved.

You can see all the posts remembering Prince from ChicagoNow writers here.

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