By Missy Robinson
I was impatiently sorting and stacking her tiny shoes. They had been tossed without care into a closet too small to hold them all. I was noticing the lack of order, the lack of care and the general messiness of her space, from fluttering papers pinned and taped on her walls to the too-massive assortment of plush animals crowded onto her bed.
I was miffed about spilled beads and annoyed at scattered markers, crayons, and paint pens on her desk. Her drawing pad was left in the middle of the floor. Would it really have been so difficult to pick up and put back in a drawer?
The clutter made my skin feeling clammy, but to her it was an open invitation to be herself.
Then I came to the pink “heels” that my little girl purchased with her own money. She had fallen in love with them at a time when I was in back-to-school budget mode. I couldn’t oblige her wish but then she asked: “Can I spend my own money?”
In a way, it broke my heart to say yes, but I did. So she purchased the most impractical pair of shoes imaginable. But over the past year, she has worn them every time it proved possible. She is so proud of those pumps!
As I straightened the row of tiny shoes in her closet, especially as I looked at that pair, my grumpy attitude melted. I could see that the messes I find irritating are just an expression of the ways in which my daughter and I differ. These aren’t issues of right and wrong, they’re just differences of taste and style.
I thought raising a son would be the greater trial of my character. After all, I am a daughter, my only sibling is my sister, and I rather idolized my mother. I understand the world of girls and feel confident in the feminine realm. I knew nothing about boys, yet it isn’t the boy-children of mine that have been the greatest emotional challenge. I accept their differences more readily and have learned to reach out when I feel baffled.
I didn’t expect to feel stumped by a little girl who is, it turns out, my opposite in so many ways.
When I imagined having a daughter, I pictured us playing house, tinkering in the garden, giggling over a good book and pampering ourselves with manicures. I smiled to think of looking on while she played dress-up, trying on my jewelry and shoes. I expected that we would be alike, think alike, and enjoy the same things. Perhaps not exactly alike, but similar enough that I would always feel comfortable with who she is.
So, when the very things that I thought would connect us became sources of frustration because reality wasn’t the way I imagined it, I was genuinely confused.
Our differences are many. For example, I’m a morning bird, but she is a night owl. I tend toward people pleasing, yet she is undeniably independent in her choices and actions. I love to read and teaching her has been a challenge – she has yet to embrace the bookshelf.
Exactly where and when are we going to connect?
Because we are different, I have been more intentional about seeking ways to bridge our extremes, and that effort has helped me grow. The very things that may divide us, I now use as triggers to draw us closer. When she blazes her own trail in situations where I would have conformed, I applaud her bravery.
I look for ways in which she can display her creativity and celebrate her unique style, which generally isn’t about the flourishes and girly-girl touches I might have preferred.
I suppose in my own way, I’m putting myself in her shoes. And because of her, my eyes are more open to beauty in simplicity. From her, I have learned that the joy of creating is the truest treasure. With her, I am beginning to understand how the mess that might drive me crazy is just part of the creative process.
Because reading has been a challenge for her, it is something that we work on together to accomplish, which puts us on the same side as we strive for improvement. We approach this activity by alternating paragraphs, and as we read aloud, I notice that our voices become similar in tone and expression.
In these hours of togetherness, my little girl has learned to trust that I am on her side even when we might handle things differently. And knowing that I am her greatest fan, she’s learned to appreciate that I’ve got her back, and we can overcome challenges because we are a team. As she feels safe revealing more of herself, I discover more of her uniqueness.
There are days when our differences make things a strain. If I realize I’m being short with her, that I’m easily frustrated by the very things that make her her, I try to remember how whimsical and charming she is. I take in her wild hair and freckles and nose-crinkling smile that my family says is so similar to my own when I was nine, and I appreciate how open to the world she is.
My daughter may have different tastes and make different choices than mine. She may choose cake when I select cookies, but I see we both have an intense affinity for all things sweet. She may choose funky colors and patterns when I prefer neutrals, but we both enjoy looking our best in what we like. And when she seems especially different from me, I think about those little pink heels, and I remember how much we both love our pretty shoes.
© Missy Robinson
Surprised to find herself in the role of single mother, Missy was even more shocked to become a remarried stepmother in a blended family of seven! She is a hard-working optimist doing her best to enjoy life, and demonstrate joy and faith in this not-so-perfect world. Missy hopes that sharing a bit of her journey will empower others to shun the mask of perfection and to open themselves to authentic living. Visit Missy at her blog, Far From Flawless.
You May Also Enjoy