My oldest daughter celebrated her 11th birthday this month. So, of course, it has me all emotional and reflective and stuff. One of the scariest moments of my life happened in November of 2004. That’s when a sonographer looked at me with a smile and said, “It’s a girl!”. I was 5 months pregnant and up to that point hadn’t even considered the real possibility that this new baby, our second child, might be a girl. My husband is one of 6 boys, and of the then 5 children born to them only one was a girl. I just thought this family only makes boys, and I was good with that. I was almost 22 years old and for maybe the first time, I was forced to see all of my insecurities in a blinding spotlight. I was terrified. I was never very good at relationships with other girls. I had no idea what to do with a girl. The phrase “Awww, you’re getting a mini-you!” was not exciting. This was not a happy thought for me. I didn’t like me!!! I certainly didn’t want to raise (read: ruin) a girl to be like me. At that point in my life, I wasn’t sure who I was, but I knew whoever I was wasn’t “good enough”.
But none of that mattered. My baby girl was coming, and when she came… she was beautiful. From the moment she was born she took my breath away. I had never seen such a perfect face. My husband took special care in naming her. Her name means “Worshipping Princess” and it perfectly describes her personality. She is full of juxtapositions and seemingly conflicting characteristics. She is a servant, yet has some gnarly pride issues. She loves organization and yet can’t keep her room clean to save her life. She adores her family but she has rough relationships with her siblings. She cares greatly about her appearance but struggles with routine hygiene. It’s all whatever, really. She’s 11. She’ll continue to grow and learn and develop and change.
From the beginning, my daughter has always challenged me with my insecurities. Even though she was only 5 pounds at birth (she was born right at 36weeks), she quickly chunked up. I mean CHUNKED UP. And I remember when I realized that I knew exactly how many rolls she had on her side by the time she was about 10 months old. I knew how many because I studied her. I was already afraid that she was going to have weight issues because, at that time, I had been struggling with bulimia for nearly 9 years. I was watching her play with her big brother and my mind was suddenly overwhelmed with fears.That’s when I realized it was ME who had a serious problem, and if I didn’t fight this battle now, she might have to do it later because I refused to, and it would be all she would know of body image, self-worth, and identity. That was not an option. I faced that giant, I was graciously rescued and haven’t struggled with it since.
As she is now fully in the “tween” stage of life, and as I have added 2 more daughters to the mix, I have been challenged not only as a mom but also as a person. I have seen how fearful, how faithless, and how graceless I have been in how I’ve processed my own life experiences and self-worth. I truly believed I had nothing to offer in raising daughters. I have been hyper-critical of things that reminded me of myself in efforts to “save” her from resembling me. I was a nutcase as a teenager. Full of angst and flailing for attention. I felt like I was always doing whatever needed to be done to be loved by anyone, and always falling just short. Parenting out of our own insecurities is a brutal game, and the relationship we share with our children will never benefit from such a strategy, but without the healing of the places that haunt us, we are bound to see them repeated as we perpetuate the cycle of insecurity.
Over the recent years, and especially going through a rough bout of depression, I have put real work into understanding what true identity is. I want nothing more than for my daughters to know their identity and to feel secure in who they are. I pray that they will be rooted in community to remind them whenever they lose sight of truth. I want them to know that when they mess up (because they will since we are all broken people in a broken world) they are not bound to failure and it has no bearing on who they are, or how loved they are. Those things are unshakable. Grace is real. Forgiveness is powerful. Truth reigns. Their lives are not meant for their own pleasure, but to benefit the community in which they have been rooted. My healing is not only for my own freedom, but to give my children thebenefit of not having to fight the battles of their mother. It is only by grace and the work of Christ in our lives that any of this is possible. I am not the worst thing for my girls. In fact, I am the best. Not because of anything I have done to be the best mom, but simply because our Creator saw it perfectly good to put us together as mother & child. I have a responsibility to teach them what I have been taught. I have the honor of doing everything I can to protect them and nurture them, most times sacrificially. But everything I do for them is only because that is what has been done for me through the love of a perfect God who is the perfect example of grace and truth and sacrifice.
So as I venture into new phases of motherhood, becoming the mom of teens and closing the baby-making phase, I am brought to my knees in both gratitude and desperation. I am beyond thankful for the blessing I have received in each of my children, especially my girls. I am humbled by the honor to raise them and teach them by example. And I am vividly aware of how wonderfully incapable I am to do any of it in my own strength. I am not strong enough for this job. But I am glad to be weak, for when I am, I am teaching the greatest lesson of all – to depend on Jesus and His grace is the very source of all of life.
To my beautiful girl, on your birthday: You are now exactly who you are meant to be. Your worth will never be in what you do right or wrong or in how you look or in who loves you, but it is found in the fact that your Creator made you in His very image, for His purpose and covers you with His glory as a daughter of the King. NOTHING can steal that from you. Live out of that identity. Live out of who He says that you are. Keep your eyes focused. Do not be swayed by the shallow pleasures this world will hurl at you. You are His. My love for you is a tainted representation of how perfectly and abundantly well-loved you are by Christ, but it is the deepest love I have to give. Being your mom has been my most favorite thing!! I am in awe of your beauty and confidence. You make me want to stay on my knees to be the best I can be for you. I love you, Little One. Always, forever… Happy Birthday. I’m so glad you were born.