I NEVER thought that I would be a mom to girls. Ever. I thought I was going to be an all-boy mom, and I secretly felt thankful that I wouldn't ever raise girls.
The reality hit me like a ton of bricks. When I was pregnant with Addison and had found out--and rejoiced in--the fact that she was surprisingly a girl, I read A Thousand Splendid Suns at the beach. The way middle eastern women were treated made me both thankful for the progress that Western women have made and yet also fearful for what the future might hold for this precious girl.
Being a girl is hard.
As I was forging my way through my own girlhood, still confident that the world was before me and I could totally conquer it, I read books about the Fabulous Five and The Babysitter's Club, and I desperately sought my identity in forging strong friendships with girls and creating my own cliques. At the time it was about finding my identity, but as I grew in maturity and awareness, I realized that part of it was based in excluding others from the group. Ouch. When I think about how other girls who were the 6th or 7th and not "in the group" must have felt, I cringe at how easy it is to be a "mean girl."
I still had my fair share of hurts though. I remember telling my mom that we needed to go to church one night because a "friend" had told me that if she came to church that night, she liked me and would be my friend, and if she didn't, well, then, she wouldn't let me sit with her at lunch. When I got home from school, and my mom said that we wouldn't be at church that night because of another event, I was devastated. How would I know if I would receive this acceptance from this girl??? I remember being the odd-man-out in groups of three girls and when a friendship between one of the two and me grew, being sabotaged by the other girl.
As I entered into awkward adolescence and started a new school, I fully realized what it felt like to be the 6th and 7th girl just outside of the safe circle of the "Fabulous Five." I became a victim of the meanness, and I had to redefine my identity by trying out for the basketball team and changing the qualities I looked for in friends and becoming a different type of friend.
That was brutal.
Finally, by high school, the social totem pole started equalizing in my well-rounded and close class, and I found my identity both in sports and in academics. There was still drama, but there were other outlets for it, and I was blessed with real, true friendships. When I went to college, I joined an amazing sisterhood and college ministry, and I found my purpose in missionally pursuing the lost and hurting, while still being occasionally lost and hurt myself.
I know that my experiences, both good and bad, have shaped who I am and who I want to be, but oh, how I cringe at the thought of my girls going through all the crap. I wish there was a way for me to help them avoid it, but I know that I am not called to protect them, but to equip them.
During my first summer of youth ministry, I lived with a precious family who had been missionaries during their children's formative years. I learned so much from this family, but one of the things that I remember the clearest is the way that this teenage girl would walk into a room and seek out a new person or a lonely person or a hurting person. Instead of finding her safe place in her "fantastic foursome," she first looked for the 5th or 11th person to greet, encourage, include. It was almost as if it was natural for her.
I have often marveled at this because even as an adult, that is not natural for me; I look for my safe place. I had my safe group of encouraging, challenging, and kindred friends at Indy. I have my lifegroup who I can totally be real and vulnerable with. I have my respective high school/college groups who know the real and evolved me. I have the safety of my bunco group. Those friendships and groups are not bad in and of themselves, but they are ALL safe. My prayer for myself is to look for the lonely and excluded, to be an example to my girls.
As the teacher and observer in Addison's class, I have learned that 4-year-olds even look for their safe place. 4-year-old girls are already being mean. Addison can already be mean. I have seen her lead the group of girls, follow the group of girls, and be reduced to tears by the group of girls. I have seen her be included and excluded. I have seen her reach out to the lonely girl and not even see the lonely girl.
This opportunity to be such an up-close observer in Addison's social world has provided me with invaluable insight. It has changed my prayers for her. It has changed how I want her to see herself and how I pray she will see others. It has made me realize that no matter how up close and personal I am to the situation, I cannot force Addison to be and act the way I want her to.
It has made me realize that I can only PROTECT so much, so I better spend my time, energy, and resources trying to EQUIP.
It has made me thankful that God knew I needed daughters, and hopefully that they need me.