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Standing Out from the Pack

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They say there's one in every family, one who is different from the rest. There's the one who looks like dad's side or who has the only set of brown eyes or who uniquely displays a talent for music or art.

Usually, there's one child who's more athletic, or less; more academically inclined, or not at all; more outgoing or wouldn't say "boo" to a ghost.

Of my four children, Betsy is the different one. She's the only blonde. She's the only child who isn't easily distracted. She was the only 13-year-old who wanted a George Foreman Fat Reducing Grill for her birthday (because she was the only one who liked to cook).

Betsy is the one we dubbed "Little Miss Independent" at the age of 2. Not only because she tried to scramble eggs on the kitchen floor or because she tended to wander off and play in the homes of people we didn't know, or because she learned to ride a two-wheeler at the age of 4, on the same day as her older sister, who was 6. No, this was a title she earned because she was self-assured and willing to solve her own problems, right from the get-go.

Betsy's independent streak goes beyond her self-directed behavior and reflects a tendency to take stock, consider her options and decide for herself what seems best. At the core of this independence is the belief that she is exactly the girl God intends her to be.

As an adolescent, that knack for critical thinking displayed itself in the color of her hair ribbons, not necessarily selected to match anything in particular, and in her devotion to alternative-rock bands that none of her friends had ever heard of.

At a time when teenage girls seem more desperate than ever to fit in by sporting exactly the right pair of Ugg boots with the prescribed leggings from Abercrombie & Fitch and the latest sweatshirt from Aeropostale, Betsy relished the moments when her friends ask, "Are you really wearing that?"

Conformity always seemed to Betsy something of a sellout.

Thinking about this daughter, I realize that all these years it wasn't her goal to be different for the sake of being different, but simply to be authentic.

Up to now, that willingness to stand out from the crowd as she stands up for her own choices has been a source of fun and pride. Being the kid who is different, but who seems happy about it, is a sweet spot, indeed.

Now it's time to see where all that independent thinking will lead this child of mine.

On Sunday, like some 3 million other American high school seniors this spring, Betsy will walk across a stage to collect a diploma. Like most of those graduates, she faces an uncertain future, defined only by the name of a college where she'll soon take on the task of growing into adulthood. Like all the rest, she'll face a host of choices - good and easy ones, and others that are hard and unpleasant - all of which she'll weave together to form the fabric of a life she alone can design.

She has a lot in common with those 3 million fellow graduates, but in my heart I pray that this lovely, uncommon girl will remain true to her independent spirit. I hope she's always different.

For truly the world needs the woman she is certain to become - a woman who stands out because she stands up for what she believes, especially when simply believing makes her very, very different from the rest.

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