In middle-school, it was a look. I wasn't unpopular and I wasn't bullied. But man--- grades six through eight are not for the faint of heart. For only in middle-school are seemingly off-handed comments like this hurdled at you like mashed potatoes from a fork in a food fight:
"I'm glad you got braces, because no offense, but you really needed them."
Catty backwards compliments are to be expected from thirteen-year-old girls, but for me---the moment when I was really made to feel less than happened outside of a B Team volleyball match on a Tuesday. A group of classmates was standing in a circle talking and I, being outgoing and knowing one person in the group pretty well, stepped into the circle to join in the conversation. That's when the ring-leader of the group stopped what she was saying mid-sentence, turned my direction and gave me a scathing look. Her eyes went to my off-brand shoes and then back up to my frizzy pony-tail. I was suddenly very aware of my crooked front teeth and wrinkled uniform shirt. One contemptuous look from an "it" girl was enough to tell me what every thirteen-year-old feared---I wasn't cool enough to hang.
Being self-conscious is just part of the teenage ride. But back then I truly believed that feelings like that dissolved once a person entered adulthood. And while my head is definitely screwed on a lot tighter (if someone mean-mugged like that I would just think they were stupid) those same middle-school type feelings of inadequacy and self-consciousness still creep in from time to time.
Tonight, for instance, I was letting a few different things get me feeling all bad about myself. Just shallow things mostly---my house isn't even close to being decorated and furnished the way I'd like. My wardrobe isn't quite what I want it to be. I didn't get an invite to a party. My hairline is weird, my eyebrows aren't thick enough, my stomach isn't as flat as I want it to be. I got a bad rating from a student's parent MONTHS ago and I still feel sad about it from time to time... I mean really, once the pity party starts it can kind of spiral out of control. In no time at all I was feeling like an untalented dumb-dumb with ugly clothes.
But then Ellie came in the house after riding bikes with her Dad. She wrapped her arms around my neck and sang, "No more monkeys jumping on the MAMA!" She laid next to me while I read to her and stroked my face with her chubby, two-year-old hand and said, "Hey mama, how you doin'?" When I tried to leave her room she pulled on my arm and said, "Snuggle mama! Please snuggle." We sang a few songs and she held onto me tight. I knew exactly how she was feeling---afraid I was going to try to leave her. (How many times had I felt this exact way about my mom?) And when I did finally have to say goodnight she poked her bottom lip out in protest.
It's moments like this---when I see Scarlett's ear to ear grin when I get her out of her crib in the morning or when Ellie insists on holding my hand every waking second of the day---that I realize that to a lot of people, I am a nobody, but to two little girls, I am absolutely everything. I am their entire world, and they are mine. I completely understand why Jesus urges us to be like little children---they love us so completely and unconditionally. They forgive so quickly. They judge so little.
Motherhood has given me so much---compassion, undying love, and a glimpse of how Heavenly Father sees me, through my daughters' eyes.