I need to apologize. I did something to you the other day that I’ve tried to teach you over and over and over again not to do. Something that I would prefer never to admit to.
I judged you based on your appearance.
Now, just writing that, I cringe. It sounds so awful. If ever there’s a sign of a bad mom, judging your OWN child because of the way she looks is a big one, right? I mean, how could I DO that? Me, who is constantly telling you to look at the heart of someone instead of the way they look on the outside?
Before you slam the door in my face, please let me explain.
The other day, I sent you to the museum with friends. I gave you the standard instructions—obey the adult in charge, use your manners, watch out for your sisters. Oh, and have fun, too.
I even approved your clothing choice. The jean shorts were a good length, and although I rolled my eyes a bit at the black hoodie you were sporting when it’s over 100 degrees outside, I realized it made you comfortable to be in your skin, so no big deal.
Then the pictures from our friend who took you started coming in.
There you were with a big group of girls in their colorful tee-shirts, bright faces, and big smiles.
Tongue sticking out.
Rock fingers proudly displayed.
Picture after picture was the same.
You, standing in the back row with your tongue out . . . rock fingers . . . black hoodie.
A scowling shadow amidst the butterflies surrounding you.
Why is she doing that? Is she not having fun? Is she TRYING to act like a hooligan? Why did she even go?
You came home late that evening, hungry from walking the museum and content to let your sisters chatter away about what they saw, what they did, and what they bought in the gift shop. You had a headache, so we sent you all to bed with a hug and a kiss and the promise to talk more the next day.
I’ll talk to her about these pictures tomorrow.
The next morning, I woke up to a message in my inbox from my friend who took you to the museum.
“Your girls were angels tonight.
They ate all of their dinner.
They followed directions incredibly well.
Layla in particular was a wonderful big sister. She stayed with Gwen and Kim when Gwen was afraid of the Hall of Egyptology. She also offered to give money to Sydney when Sydney’s choice in the gift shop was over the $10 budget I gave each of them. (She ended up not needing to do so, but the offer was so sweet!) She also gave Gwen her hoodie at one point, because Gwen was cold.
I am so glad that they were able to come today!”
That’s when I realized what I had done. I had judged your character, your behavior and your attitude based on a handful of snapshots.
I had failed to consider who you are and instead focused on how you looked.
I’m so sorry.
I’m sorry for not remembering that you’re one of the most mature kids your age I have ever met.
I’m sorry for not thinking of your dry sense of humor and your inherent kindness.
I’m sorry for not remembering all of the beautiful times I’ve seen you smile and laugh lately.
I’m sorry I looked at your outstretched tongue instead of your laughing eyes.
I’m sorry I judged you on the appearance I saw instead of the heart I know.
So, my pre-teen, thank you for doing exactly what we’ve taught you to do. Thank you for being so polite to the adults in charge. Thank you for looking after your sisters and quietly lending a hand when they needed it. Thank you for having fun in your own way, for showcasing your unique personality within the boundaries we’ve set for you as your parents.
Thank you for showing me that not judging by appearance applies to our family, not just to strangers.
Originally published on the author’s blog
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