Saturday my twin sons turned 24 years old. I spent my day shuttling my 14-year old to town so she and a friend could “hang out” while I ran errands. I returned items to Macy’s (rejected possible outfits for the aforementioned daughter) and then bought clothes for the boys (who really couldn’t care less about clothes, let’s be honest). (Please note, one of my sons sings on the platform at church every week and he wears the exact same green shirt every Sunday. I promise he has other clothes!)
Anyway, then on to the fruit market and the grocery store and a cupcake shop and back to pick up the girls. Then birthday dinner and cupcakes and the requisite birthday photo and then it was time to work.
Then, as fate and the lunar calendar would have it, Easter was the next day (one year, their birthday was actually on Easter). So I stayed up late prepping food for the next day. It’s so tricky to cook while you are not in the kitchen, but I solved this problem by putting ham and potatoes in separate Crockpots. (God bless the inventor of the Crockpot.)
We arrived at church early which was an Easter miracle. (Really, you have no idea. I can’t seem to arrive at church on time most Sundays, proof of my utter failure as a pastor’s wife.)
After church, I finished up dinner preparations and we ate together except for my husband who was still coughing and germy from the cold he had all week. (This was the worst possible week for him to be sick but he was sick nonetheless.)
Speaking of colds . . . why is it when you catch a cold, you think, “Oh, in three days I’ll be better?” when a cold is never better in three days. It’s seven days of misery, possible ten. Why are newly sick people so optimistic?
I realized something about myself this Easter weekend.
My daughter has very specific ideas of what she will and will not wear. (It’s a lot like when she was three years old, actually.) We have somewhat different ideas about what is appropriate and what is not appropriate. I admit that I have some overly modest feelings about clothing. She does not. (I do not understand why, frankly.)
Anyway, she decided she wanted a “romper” for Easter and for her 8th grade graduation. I went to Macy’s alone and took photographs of possible outfits, including some cute rompers. Then I bought a half dozen things and brought them home for her consideration. I decided this was easier than shopping WITH her because that unfortunately tends to end in frustration for one or both of us.
So she chose a romper with flowing sleeves and a V-neck and I said, “What about shoes?” and she said, “I’ll just wear my checkered Vans.” (They look like this, only not new.)
I scowled. I’m sure of it. And I said, “They won’t look right at all. Can’t I just buy you some shoes?” and she said, “No.”
So, Easter morning, she wore the romper and her checkered Vans and I noticed that I cared about this. I cared a lot. I cared because I thought other people would look at my daughter and wonder why she was essentially wearing shorts (it was a short romper) and slightly dingy checkered Vans instead of a cute pastor’s daughter dress along with some shiny new shoes.
Sometimes I carry around an imaginary judgmental Church-Lady on my back and hear her imaginary scolding voice in my ears and find myself to be lacking. The shoes on my daughter’s feet are not about my daughter at all. It’s about what I think someone else might think and how they will judge me. I know they think I’m a bad mom.
Do these imaginary people think I don’t know how to pick out appropriate clothing?
Do they think I don’t know what shoes should go with what outfits?
Do they think my poor son has only one long-sleeved button-down shirt?
So, once I realized that I was hearing the scolding voice of the piggy-backing imaginary Church-Lady, I deliberately shrugged her off and clamped my mouth shut and did not tell my daughter and my son what She thought about their choices in attire. I said nothing. I let my daughter wear the shoes that didn’t match the outfit.
And we went to church.
One of the difficult things about raising children (and now teenagers and young adults) in a pastor’s family is the concern that people are judging them and their behaviors and attitudes and shoes and hair color (she keeps dyeing her hair purple) and feeling like you have somehow dropped the reins, that you are actively failing to live up to other people’s expectations. For someone who wants to be good and right and perfect, even, this is hard for me. I want my ducks to line up in a row and waddle after me in perfect obedience.
My emotions are a complex stew of contradictions.
I want to control my kids. I want them to be themselves. I will cut anyone who criticizes them, yet I am critical and see them through the mean eyes of a critic.
I want my kids to be perfect, yet I never want them to feel like they have to be perfect. (I know perfection is ridiculous, impossible, poisonous.)
I worry, worry, worry even as I believe completely that God loves them more than I ever could and that He will use everything for good in their lives, even the mistakes, the poor choices, the attitudes that infuriate and cause me to despair.
Not long ago, my daughter came downstairs on a Sunday morning wearing black jeans and a black Led Zeppelin t-shirt and lavender hair. I kind of rolled my eyes and maybe I said something–I can’t remember but I gave off a faint scent of disapproval, no doubt.
But then at church during the part where you have to shake hands and say hello to those around you one of the men in our church said to her, “Hey, I like your shirt!” and mentioned that he’d seen them in concert (a million years earlier because, hello, Jimmy Page is 73 and Robert Plant is 68). Anyway, it was just a Led Zeppelin t-shirt. Not the end of the world.
I’ve got to remember that.
Shake it off. Let it go. Stop giving piggy-back rides to that imaginary Church-Lady. (Oh, but it’s so hard. She keeps jumping on my back.)
Please tell me I will survive teenagers.