"I can do it myself," she replied with characteristic confidence. I cringed.
She yanked the sides back and violently twisted a rubber band into place. Grabbing another rubber band, she pulled the bottom section into a ponytail and proceeded to adorn the look with a hair claw.
I looked on in silent agony as my dreams of perfectly symmetrical pig-tails vanished. It took a fair measure of self control.
I don't always show such restraint. She's messy. She's loud. For such a tiny thing, she sure does take up a lot of space. Of course I love her intensely. But I have a hard time knowing what to do with the passion of a determined six-year-old. (You may have gathered as much.)
When I was in college I taught a Sunday school class. It was a perfect opportunity for me to interact with children and gain some classroom experience since, at the time, I planned to pursue teaching. It was a fun group of kids, and we learned a lot from each other. (I'm sure that I learned more from them than they did from me.)
As is generally the case in any classroom, one student was particularly . . . how shall I put it? . . . . challenging. Not downright naughty, just boisterous and often in need of . . . gentle correction. I didn't know what to do with him and was relieved when his mother stayed after class one day to visit.
She was a woman I admired. Warm, engaging and hospitable. I knew I could be honest with her when she asked, "How is he doing in class?"
I confessed that he was a bit of a handful and eagerly awaited her advice on how to control the little man. She smiled and patted my arm saying, "I was the same way!" And that's all the advice I got.
It wasn't what I wanted to hear. But, looking back, I realize it was what I needed to hear.
And you know what? This is also what I hear from you. You write to me and say, "I was just like Avery when I was little! My poor mother!"
And you are beautiful, godly women who are vivacious and full of spunk and I love you.
My eyes are filling with tears as I write this because you give me hope. You point me toward the beauty of a spirit who is free and full of life. You show me that the smoothest path is not always the best.
You remind me that a frightful looking Sunday morning hairdo is not worth obsessing over. And I see the foolishness of imposing my own standards on such a child.
* * * * *
She finally finished twisting her hair into place. It bulged and rippled in all the wrong places. I kept my mouth shut.
Clutching the hand-held mirror, she turned around to catch a glimpse of the full effect in the wall mirror behind her. "That looks good!" she announced, eyes sparkling. And back out the door she skipped, all ready for church.
When I allow myself to look at the core of this child, when I look past the mess, the defiance and the volume, I see confidence. I see creativity and determination and an inhibition which I admire. Yes, these traits still require guidance. I have a feeling that when she is grown she will frequently beseech the Holy Spirit for an extra measure of certain fruits which only He can cultivate.
But I also have a feeling that, tucked away, is the woman who will one day be an incredibly dear friend. And that, to me, looks very, very good.