“Are you all good now?” I asked my toddler after examining her chin.
“NO!” she screamed at me emphatically, taking a breath between sobs. The crying continued.
Navigating the kitchen chairs as a bridge, she had lost her footing and crashed to the floor. Relieved not to have found blood, but knowing the pain was real, I pulled her close. Snuggled into my chest, I wanted so badly to keep her in that moment.
You see, when I asked if she was all good, I had expected her sobs to slow, her big, brown eyes to look up at me, and her little head to bob up and down saying yes. Then, despite the pain she still felt, I’d send her on her way to climb across the chairs once again.
I wanted to hold onto that moment, that honesty, because with each passing year it will fade. Someday, all to soon, when she faces the emotional bumps and bruises of life, she will hide behind a tough smile and tell me she’s good.
Because that’s what we do, isn’t it? As women, we paint on the smile with our makeup. We slip our shirt over our heads with a veil of strength. In the mirror, we see what the world sees, but our reflection doesn’t reveal the pain, sadness, exhaustion, and weakness we feel inside. Out the door we go, the honesty of a toddler long gone. Instead, we put on our game face and get ready to play.
Countless times a day we’re asked, “How are you? How’s your day? Are you having a good week?”
“Good, fine, busy,” we reply. It’s a conditioned response. We hide the real, the raw. The same emotions, that as a toddler bubbled to the surface and exploded in honesty, now contained by a simple, expected response.
You do it, don’t you? Those words roll off your lips without even a thought about how you really are, what you really feel.
I do it all the time.
I’ve told people I’m good after wrestling a child into a car seat who then screamed the entire drive into town. I’ve told people I’m good after hearing my son say I’m the worst mom ever as we walked out the door. I’ve told people I’m good despite the fact that my husband and I are stretched thin and barely have time to say good morning and goodnight to each other.
We hide our struggles behind “good.”
I’ve told people I’m good because I didn’t want to flaunt happiness in the face of someone who seemed unhappy. I’ve told people I’m good despite feeling true joy and contentment. I’ve told people I’m good in an effort not to sound self-absorbed when in reality I’m beaming with pride over an accomplishment.
We hide our successes behind good, too.
You see, no matter what is going on, where we’re coming from, or the mix of real emotion we feel, when someone asks how we are, we answer good. Because we don’t want to burden someone with our honesty, we simply say good; it’s a safe answer, requiring no follow-up.
The honesty of my toddler made me question: at what point does honesty become a burden? At what point do we feel the need to hide what’s going on inside, our struggles and our excitement? At what point do we feel the pressure to make everything good even when it’s not?
Can we try something, friends? Can we try the honest toddler approach?
Straggling into church on a Sunday morning, I might respond with a, “Well, we’re here.” If I see you at the park where my kids are playing (not fighting), and I’m relishing in a few moments of no one needing me, I might just answer with “fantastic.” And if I’m tired and worn and sick of the busyness, I might take a risk and tell you that I’m exhausted in so many ways.
And when you hear my honest answer, please don’t be shocked by the absence of good. Instead give me a hug, or a “me too,” or an “I was there last week.” And when I return the question to you, don’t be afraid to swallow the “good” and tell me the truth.
Let’s take a breath between sobs, be brave, and answer with the honesty of a toddler.