Kaylee Hendrickson, clothes are NOT that important! I remember hearing after I threw my best theatrical performance of my life when mom wouldn’t let me go home and change before heading to afternoon kindergarten. I was infuriated as I had two boys (yes, that is correct, two!) I planned to impress during Farmer In the Dell.
Mom and I had gone to her morning Bible study followed by lunch at McDonalds. I hated mcnuggets and fries so I always ordered a side salad and mom would order the “chef” and give me some of the protein. It was always my favorite day of the week.
My outfit was fine. But that was it - not anything impressive and I wanted TO IMPRESS. So when mom wouldn’t take me home to change I fell so deeply apart that she had no other choice but to take me home and put me down for a nap until “dad could get home and help her parent this one out.”
When dad got home he asked me if I had anything I wanted to tell him about my day.
I said no.
TO THIS DAY, I will argue I didn’t lie because I, indeed, had nothing I wanted to tell him.
But my parents were both concerned with my preoccupation with clothes and the inability I had to be forthright and honest. So they packed up my clothes.
I remember dad being on his knees by my dresser packing up each piece of clothing while I stood by his side sobbing. Each item was placed in a brown paper bag and I was told they were going to Goodwill. I had one outfit I got to wear for an entire week (plus a daily change of underwear).
RECENTLY, I’ve noticed Bell is really into two things:
2. And how she looks.
At first I thought: how cute! She’s five going on thirteen. But then I realized it was something deeper: a symptom of what was going on around her. Messages surround her that beauty is one defined image and that happily ever after isn’t found within but the moment one secures a mate.
She is super focused on two things because society tells her that’s all that is out there.
Two things. That’s it? I watch her look at herself in the mirror studying each inch of her face, already begging the question: am I enough?
And when we get together with friends, I watch her follow whatever boy she can, unaware of any-one-or-any-thing else.
Standing back, observing my daughter, I wasn’t sure where to begin.
Growing up, I held this belief that, as a Christian, it was my job NOT to be attractive. A Christian woman only cares about adorning herself with compassion and love. And you do NOT catch a man’s eye, because then you’re immediately a whore.
I thought that to get it right was to hide those pieces that I didn’t quite fully understand, and as I watched my daughter come up against the same shadowy world, I felt tempted to tell her the same lies.
But I couldn't escape the conviction that she'd then grow with the same shame and I’d, in turn, bear false witness to the God of her heart. Because, I believe that dressing for yourself can be an incredibly creative and fun way to express your inner beauty and I believe we were designed for companionship so I don’t think you’re a silly-stereotypical-girl-with-daddy-issues for desiring it.
Bella does not have to master or hide any piece of herself so as to THEN be acceptable before her God. She has a God that made her wonderful and who finds great delight in her. How dare I shame that which I don’t yet fully know and understand myself.
I started to think that maybe it wasn’t about hiding or abandoning pieces of ourselves; rather, maybe it was about re-shaping and re-seeing them – and to spend time discovering all the other pieces we’ve ignored or not yet explored.
I began to wonder how I could help Bell find those parts of herself she hasn’t yet met – how could I help her water and nourish her soul?
Hey Bella, how does he make you feel? I asked Bell as I pulled into the grocery store parking lot and brought the car to a stop.
Happy! She exclaimed as we stepped out of the car and began walking.
What else? I inquired.
LOVED, she proclaimed as her feet scurried alongside me.
I stopped dead in my tracks. I was standing on holy ground as my heart melted. And with a sigh, the word love echoed in my heart as my soul honored this truth: Of course it’s love. She’s experiencing a form of love. How beautiful!
We quickly maneuvered the grocery aisles for two limes and a small container of sour cream and hopped back into the car.
Bell, I want you to list five things that make you happy! (Now understanding boys make her feel happy I wanted to try and help her find her own happy because finding happy in others is easy; finding happy in ourselves can be a bit tricky)
She quickly listed a boy’s name.
NO! I announced as I hung my head in defeat. But then quickly realized that I was doing it again. I was shaming pieces that were hard instead of re-defining and cultivating.
WAIT! I said, you can have one of the five be a boy but the others have to be things un-related to a boy. It was no longer about ignoring the boy but finding MORE.
With my hand in the air, in preparation to finger-count, we began to list things that make Bella happy: like drawing and swimming and dancing.
Bella is a beautiful soul made up of a million different pieces. My job isn’t to shame the pieces out of her that are hard or difficult or maybe not perfectly being used. MY job, the honor I get in this life, is to go on a scavenger hunt with my daughter and together, hand in hand, we get to find all the hidden gems, water the seeds planted deep within by her creator and tend to the beautiful blooming beauty within.
Thing is, I've uncovered another truth as I've navigated my daughter's heart: it is that in my daughter I’m seeing all the pieces I have neglected, shamed, hidden and resented.
Our children are our blood, our DNA, our legacy and…our mirror. Pieces of us are IN THEM and it is in my daughter’s story and the way she sees the world that I see myself a bit more fully and clearly. I only continue on a journey of my own.
To nourishing each piece.
Grace + Peace.