Tuesday, September 30, 2014


This morning, amid the usual morning struggle to get dressed, get the kids dressed, fed, lunches packed, and out, I heard the pocket door rattle open as I got out my makeup kit.

There she stood, the most amazing little person imaginable.  Her sleep bun dripping fuzzy down her back, wallowed to a golden-brown frizzy twist, she gazed at me from her heart-covered gown and said something I longed to hear for a long time.

I don't think I knew I longed for it.  I don't recall completing that thought in my head.  But as far back as I can remember, it's just not a word those closer to me have used to describe me.  Smart, maybe... but not likely.  Nice, sure.  But seldom and from few did I hear that word.  Not really until my husband came around, and even he doesn't use the term that often, though I know he thinks I am.

She called me something that seems to anger some.  That maybe if that's what you call me, it's all that I am.  That it's degrading to a point.  I'd have to agree that I want to be thought of as more than that... don't we all?  I'm pretty protective of my career and my ability therein, that's for sure.

When she called me what she did, the seven year old being put on the scale as soon as she arrived at her father's house for a six-monthly visit wanted to cry.  The one hearing that everyone would call her two-ton-tillie if she didn't lay off the candy...

...that if I'd let her do so-and-so to my face and my hair or lose fifteen pounds or try this new color of hair or this new cut or if I'd just TRY...

... the one who walked in just in time to hear the stepmother's friend comment, then hear "we just wish she'd lose the weight"...

... the one who sat crying in the department store dressing room as she listened to her father apologize for her figure to the lady helping her try on dresses...

...the one who endured the family jokes about how enormous her posterior was...

...that little girl, that awkward high school girl, that still-awkward college girl... the graduate who listened to the jokes about "putting an ad in the paper for a husband"...

... she's a mom now.

She has a little girl.

Parts of that scare her to death.

So when so many people come out with the "don't tell girls they're pretty" argument, part of me shrivels further into the corner.  Taking this without a healthy grain of salt is throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

No, do not tell your daughter that all her worth lies in her beauty.  But don't refuse to compliment her, either.

We want our children to find their worth in something much larger.  Something much deeper-seeded than a photo, makeup technique, hair styling, dress size... or in making first chair, winning the game, getting the scholarship, making the team, making all-state, or a test score.  They are not any of those things.

They are good enough because they are ours.

They are good enough for the same reason we are... they are covered by the love, grace, and mercy of Christ... and they are amazing.

They mess up.  They make messes.  They break things.  They annoy the heck out of us at times.  But they are ours, and they are loved.  There is nothing they lack that will make us say, "if you would... then you'd be enough."

Knowing I couldn't compete in the area of looks, I went for being good.  My grades were pretty marginal, athletics were abysmal.  Band, on the other hand... I could totally do.  In my mind, if I made the all-state band, I'd finally be okay.  I'd be worth it.  It didn't happen.  It took several tries over almost twenty years to get it into my head that none of that will make me okay.  Still trying to get it, actually.

So please, please, please... don't buy too into that "don't tell girls they're pretty" thing.  Or into the other end.  Join me in trying to find a way to encourage them to be all they can be without placing too much worth one place or the other.  It's much more than telling girls they're pretty or smart.  It's about a love that can't be shaken by a trip into the principal's office or a lost game or a bad grade.  If they're smart, tell them that.  If they've done a great job, tell them that.  If they're handsome or pretty, tell them that.  But also tell them something positive when they haven't.  Or when they aren't.  Remind them that you mess up too.

What nearly brought me to tears this morning?

She said, "Mommy, you're beautiful."  And she was serious.

Thanks be to God for making me enough... and for the ways I'm still realizing he's what makes me enough.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Crazy Honest

As I visited with a friend about the start of school, I could hear him starting to have trouble.  It's not a single-sense recognition.  When he hits, yells, cries... when he's losing control... it hurts us too.

Quickly excusing myself and taking a deep breath, I hurried down the short hall to his side.  Squatting down at the table, patting his back a bit with my hand, I heard he was having trouble getting used to a change in transition.  I thanked someone I consider one of THEE most amazing people I've ever encountered for being who he needs, and started to try to help him.  

Remember, I usually can't stop these things.  Usually, I can just stay by him, speaking in a calm voice, using few words.  Or that's the aim anyway.  I'd be lying if I said I'm a champ at dealing with meltdowns. 

Normally when this happens, whoever is around just kind of either carries on, not judging or bothering us.  Some will carry on but keep an eye on us, staying in earshot in case I need help.  Both are invaluable reactions.  

One little boy in his class approached us.  With wide eyes and the sweetest, most innocent demeanor, he said "I've been in his class before.  He gets CRAZY!"  


I smiled, unsure what else to do or say, and said simply (and as kindly as I could muster), "I know."  

Because I do know. 

As I made my way to the service, all I could do was fight with the temptation to be devastated.  He called my kid crazy.  He called my kid CRAZY!  

But you know what?  Yeah.  He used the word "crazy."  But he didn't say Ryan IS crazy.  He simply walked up to me, not knowing I was Ryan's mom, and said something he thought would make me okay with what was going on.  And let's not forget that this is a little boy we're talking about here.  

Once the initial emotional ouchie of hearing "crazy" used to describe Ryan's behavior, my mind scrambled with the thought that I missed a teachable moment with that child.  What could I have said to help him understand?  

Then it hit me.  I can't explain it.  Yes, I can give the clinical reasons why I THINK he hits.  I can give all kinds of perspectives from blogs and books and doctors and therapists.  I can tell you how it feels for me to watch and hear it, and I can tell you what his chest looks like at the end of the day when he's had a rough one.  But do I really know WHY?  And why would I act like it's no big deal when this is one of the most if not the most frustrating, painful, potentially crippling part of autism for us?  

As it stands, I'm glad my response was what it was.  Not too much, not too little.  And as this child (hopefully) continues to grow alongside Ryan and our family, he will maybe not be afraid to come to me with questions.  He's obviously not afraid to get too close to Ryan, because he had to get pretty close to be able to speak to me.  

I do worry what Ryan heard and how he processed it.  But that's another reason why I'm glad I didn't make a big deal of it.  I'm definitely not suggesting that it's okay for adults to walk up to someone struggling in that way and say anything other than, "what can I do?"  This was a child, expressing to an adult what he has witnessed.  I choose to believe that he was being honest.  I choose to let go of the right to be upset that the c-word was used in reference to any part of my kiddo.  

You know what else?  I'm thankful that I can do that now.  That after years of being stared at, glared at,  and having the occasional rude comments and the more common whispers, my security in who I and who Ryan is in the eyes of God can overcome the need to defend. 

There have been times all too recently when I was half afraid to leave the house, and more afraid to be around people.  Too afraid of the pain of stares and insensitive, ignorant comments to step out and try anything.  And that still lingers in many ways.  But there is hope and comfort in realizing that my best is all I can do, and Ryan's best is all he can do.  

Thanks be to God for holding my tongue and comforting my heart, and for allowing me to see the honesty in a young boy's eyes... and that, for that moment, I experienced the most honest, pure form of empathy imaginable.

And don't you worry, church friend-parents who are reading this... I have no clue who this kid is or who he belongs to.   But I do know that he was a sweetheart.  
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