I have had 12-hours as a parent that made me feel giddy and weepy and hopeful and scary. I came to the realization that my 13-year-old was growing and changing and maturing. But like any good writer, I will tell you that this is both the end of a story and the beginning of another.
The story that is ending started when another little girl was 13. She too was tall and couldn’t get her body to cooperate. Facts were everything because facts unlike feelings didn’t change. Books were far more interesting than people, and books unlike people didn’t change. Fashion didn’t make sense; clothes were just a covering for the body, and if they were clean and had no holes and (sort of) matched, that was fine.
On the outside, she acted like she didn’t care if she didn’t fit in because she acted funny and her clothes were different. But on the inside, she kept trying to tweak things. She worked at being perfect and trying to be at peace with everyone by just making everyone happy. What she didn’t know was that at 40-something, she would come to realize the futility of all of this.
I am she.
I tried so hard to fit in and be what everyone needed that I lost me. I stopped seeking the future God had promised me and traded it for a now that was unfulfilling and left me always hungry and thirsty, never satisfied and nearly sated. I had to learn Romans 12:2 followed by Romans 12:1.
I had to learn that I couldn’t go with the flow of the world. I had to change my inner ear to hear the pattern of the drum I was destined to dance to. It meant changing the way I looked at the world and relationships and things. Then I would be able to give everything I was to follow God, and sometimes it would be sacrificially hard.
As a mother, I’ve worked hard to make it okay for my kids to be whatever it is they’re called to do as long as they make wise choices.
So let’s move into the point where the first story is beginning it’s end and the second is just beginning.
My youngest daughter’s middle school does a yearly Morp. It’s like the prom, only for the tweener and early teen set. She begged to go last year, and this year was no exception. As a mom, I delight and struggle with saying yes. The delight: She wants to be social! The struggle: She’s wired differently; she’s on the spectrum; the kids haven’t matured yet to see that different is okay.
So we bought the dress a few weeks ago. It was a beautiful, two-piece, purple dress. It was elegant. The skirt is plain, and the top was imported because of all the glittery and feminine sequins and rhinestones and beads and seed pearls. I picked out four dresses, and this was the one she liked. (Yes, it was a consignment thrill find, but I wouldn’t even have bought it for myself new because I knew it was way out of my league.)
Last night was the big night. We worked together. She did initial passes with legs and some of the girly things; I helped finish the legs (epilators on kids with sensory issues make for interesting times and comments that I won’t repost and cause her to die of embarrassment 😉 ).
Next we did her hair. I took those little wisps on the sides of her face that never do anything and tamed them into spiral ringlet curls. I did her make up. When she was finally dressed, she wasn’t my baby anymore. She looked so mature I almost lost my breath. And amazingly, she had a night where nothing caused any sensory issues. (She does have to learn to walk in heels; poor child has large feet that they don’t make cute flats for. You either go clodhopper ugly or sleek, sophisticate, three-inches.)
I did all the mom things with pictures and dropping by my ex’s so she could show her dad. I dropped her off and started to pull away. And it hit me…
I couldn’t breath, I wanted to puke. I had the pounding whirlwind thoughts, “You’ve done it again. You’ve turned your daughter into a freak. She’ll never fit in. She looks just as out of place as you were. And you know the spectrum wiring makes it harder on her. None of the other girls are covered in sackcloth so why should she be?”
I made it home and threw myself into work for the two hours she was gone. All the while, the voice of the 13-year-old I was is rebelliously shouting out and yelling at me about making her fit in and not having her stand out.
In those moments, it’s hard for me to listen for the still, small Voice of Truth. He was whispering, “You helped her be My princess tonight. You made her beauty shine. No, she’s not wearing what the other girls are wearing. That’s okay. She doesn’t have to share her treasures with the world and be the next pin up. Let it go. She is where I want her to be.”
It finally hit me in the still, small hours of a cold, dark morning that my inner 13-year-old ugly duckling still lives. As much as I’ve worked in the world to fake it until I became confident, self-assured, and eloquent, that inner child who was alone and didn’t connect well still lived inside my heart and mind. The life truth behind the end of the fairy tale “The Ugly Duckling” gets lost in the midst of all the struggles in the beginning and middle.
Even though I’ve become a swan and I look to find the other swans, the ugly duckling still whispers in my head: “Don’t change your heart. Don’t go against the flow of culture. Keep trying to not be different and stick out. Don’t make your daughter into the same freak you always were and are returning to.”
The swan gently sings back: “I will not be assimilated. I will resist. I will see the world both with the Heart of my Master and the wonder of my children. I will speak truth, nobility, righteousness, purity, loveliness, respect, excellence, and grace and favor.”
So, in the later parts of my story, I will tweak what I was taught as a child so that I can teach my daughter at the beginning of her story that it’s okay to not assimilate. It’s okay to be yourself and not transform into what society tells you to be. It’s far better to listen for the still, small Voice of Truth and change with His help into whatever he has called you to be as His princess, even if you have to go against the flow and stand alone (at least to the naked eye unassisted by a heart of faith).
Because, inside the heart of every woman, there is inner princess just waiting to debut and have a voice…