All of us parents dread the day when the hardships of this life sneak up and sting our kids. No matter how padded we build their rooms or how crazy we go on limiting their exposure to all kinds of people, foods, movies and toys we think will harm them or land them in jail one day – we honestly have little to no control.
I knew this in my head but felt it in my heart when my daughter came home one afternoon and shared that she’d been excluded because “her hair was different.”
It was a really poor day for this too, considering it was one of her best hair days in my opinion. I mean seriously, it was rockin’.
But I suppose not everyone appreciates or loves a natural set of biracial curly hair that’s often larger than life and a showstopper, to put it lightly. Especially her 5-year-old peers who’ve been shown that the ideal beauty standard is long, blonde princess hair (no offense, Elsa.) Not everyone understands that it’s OK to be and look different.
Upon initially hearing that my daughter was excluded because of her hair, I’ll admit I didn’t handle it the best. My “mama bear” came out. I’m sorry to all of my Facebook friends who saw my knee-jerk reaction as I put it out there that I wanted to punch a child. I would never seriously punch a child.
But it triggered something in me, and the others who commented, that I believe goes deeper than this silly little playground happening my kiddo experienced. I mentioned in my post that I’d need God’s grace in this. He delivered it, along with some encouragement I want to share with everyone wrestling with the good, bad and ugly that came from it.
The good: We’ve made progress my friends. I won’t dance around the fact part of my response, and the response of others, honed in on a racial issue here. I’m certain race had nothing to do with the 5-year-olds’ exchange – however it had a lot to do with my 30-year-old response. The fact that people from many races got stirred up about this shows that we have made progress. Despite what some of the media may lead us to believe, racial barriers are being broken down. Sure, we have work to do. But we’re coming together despite our differences and in fact, some of us are loving and celebrating them. Now that’s pretty awesome.
The bad: The reality is that we’re dealing with 5-year-olds here. I have no control over what mine does or says these days – I hear this will only get worse. So there’s that. But, we can build in some lessons for our kids now about differences. And honestly, we’re bad at that. Me included. We must be intentional in our conversations to talk about how being different isn’t “better or worse – it’s just different.” Kids need us to give them the words to say when they recognize that someone is different from them. They need us to set an example and go first. It’s not always race-related – there’s lots of things that make us different from one another. I’m challenged to be more intentional about looking for differences between other people and families. I should be addressing them so my kiddo knows how to handle a situation with grace and love if she too finds herself reacting to a noticeable difference. She may blow me off or she may listen — Lord knows what she will choose and I certainly have no control. But I do see there’s work to do and I can be intentional.
The ugly: Ahh, now this one gets hard. Did I mention that I need grace? Here’s the real ugly stink of the situation: Because we do try to celebrate (some) differences around our house, I think that makes me different from other parents, and therefore I’m better.
I’m exactly what I’m judging and reacting to.
As I stopped to cycle through those hidden inner thoughts, I realized that my own self-righteous pride was stirred up when I began to assume the other parents weren’t doing their job, or that somehow we’d done everything right around our house. I was quick to point my finger outward and blame (even the kid!). I wasn’t willing to look inward at my own junk and see that I too struggle with the same root issue here:
Yep. Back to basics. Yesterday’s hair situation wasn’t one person’s fault. It came from a root of sin – one that we all can relate with and have ties to. It doesn’t take away the offense or the wrongdoing – and it doesn’t mean there’s not virtue in my actions toward equality. But, I also have read enough Maya Angelou and Romans lately to know that no change is going to come without an inner strength and resolve to find peace in myself no matter what. I must realize that in my brokenness, I’m no better than those who hurt me… or my kid. And I need lots of grace.
I’m broken just like everyone else, as is my daughter. Her hair may be different, but our brokenness and sin is the same. We may have had a sad day yesterday when some of life’s ugliness hit, but it doesn’t end here. This won’t be the last time, either. But I do have hope that together, we can forgive because we’ve been forgiven. We can love differences because we understand everyone is different in some way. And we can offer grace because we’ve undoubtedly needed our own supply around here.
Yes, we may look different but really, deep down, we’re all the same.