She runs outside with the other girls, excitedly whooping and ready for adventure. They’re all cute as buttons, pictures of what little girls look like in their homemade t-shirts and bare feet, or dress up clothes and funny socks.
I look at the window just minutes later (so grateful for the view to the outside, and so grateful for the sprawling, shared yards we have with friendly neighbors). She is there, alone, playing on the climbing wall, having an adventure with herself.
It’s taken awhile, but I’ve learned that these are not sad adventures, and this is not a lonely child. Sometimes, most times, she does not fit in. She is the one with the “thing” that I can’t quite put my finger on, the thing that isn’t a diagnosis or a label. She is going to dress her way, imagine her way, and demand her way. She is going to challenge me and she is going to be challenged.
She is mighty. She is a leader. And she is a child. And that last one sometimes trumps the first two, and the brave warrior comes crashing down, with angry accusations and heart-wrenching tears that break her mama’s heart, because I never wanted my five-year-old to feel that level of fear, of uncertainty, of rejection, of humiliation, or frankly, of intensity.
On church day, a friend comes to me. She knows me pretty well by now, and she embraces me as she tells me what she feels God has shown her. It’s confirmation, so I know it’s true. One daughter, she says, is just like her daddy. And this one, she is like you. God is showing you what you were like, so you can see… so you can see…
Like me? This five year old with bravery that I envy? With confidence that I long for? With coolness that I strive for? She is me? Did I leave others in awe? Did I leave my parents in manic states of amusement and frustration and utter bewilderment at my brilliance? Surely not.
But now, colored with perspective, I watch her today. I remember the stories I began to write at age 6, excited ramblings and detailed imaginings. I remember how my heart reached out for others, wanted to be like them, but could never quite change enough to fit. I know that looking back at the girl I was…age 6, age 9, age 12, age 18… age 35, that I was beautiful, but I didn’t see it, so I tried to be something else, anything else.
I look in the mirror and see the same blue eyes and pale skin as our youngest child, the one who does not look at all like her three older siblings, (who’ve captured their daddy’s little bit of Cherokee blood, deep brown eyes, and great ability to tan), the one whose flowing blond mane calls to mind “Irish Lass” or “Tinkerbell” until people realize it’s more like “Buzz Lightyear” or “Thor.” Can I have the same care, the same grace, for my own reflection as I have for my baby girl? Can I accept, even celebrate, that those uncategorizable differences my Father gave to me make me special and fun and even great? Can I accept the beauty that others insist is there, in spite of the wiry grays and the extra pounds and general feelings of awkwardness? Can I apply the lesson that adventures of my own making, taken alone, are acceptable and even enough, if they are what I am meant to have?
I look outside again, just after writing those words, and see the girls have regrouped, then run off again, except now one has stayed behind with my warrior, swinging on a tire just feet away, companionable but separate. Companionable but separate: kind of like my husband, reading across the room but smiling knowingly at me on the occasions I look up… or my Dad, who sometimes smirks and shakes his head at my “Kelly-ness”… or those friends, some 1000 miles away and some at the next desk, who know my fake smile from my real one (even on Facebook) and when to call me on it.
We were not made to be just like everyone else. We were not made always to fit in the crowd, but sometimes to get lost in it, and sometimes run circles around it. She will be ok, and so will I. And if this resounds in your spirit, so will you.
~ November 2013