Another crazy afternoon, a day in the life of me. Except this time, we had just picked up my oldest from school and she is still struggling to keep herself together. I juggle her assignments, Elijah’s off the wall energy and Tori’s victorious antics. We settle in for the evening, supper, showers, stories, and bedtime. After I get the little ones to bed, I hustle Chy into the shower.
She takes longer than usual, forty five minutes later, she is out, dripping wet and her eyes hold a brokenness in them. She asks me quietly if I would straighten her mound of golden brown hair.
“Sure,” I say as I begin the tedious process of de-tangling and blow-drying her Shirley Temple curls. She’s looking at herself in the mirror but something is different, I don’t like the way she is looking at herself. She doesn’t say it, so I say it for her,
“You don’t think you’re good enough, do you?” Her big brown eyes begin to mist, the pressure of being in sixth grade and trying to compute the world the way everyone else does, is just too much. Cheyenne has struggled in school since the beginning.
In first grade, she floundered because she couldn’t see the words like everyone else. She had to learn a completely new way to read by memorizing the look of a word.
In second grade, we found out, she was nearly blind on one eye. It required sporting an eye patch all day, everyday. In third, she was the little girl that the girls left out in their games, making themselves superior in her eyes. In fourth, we realized she couldn’t focus and required different learning strategies with the diagnosis of Inattentive A.D.D. and recently the missing piece of the puzzle of Cheyenne was Aspergers.
Middle school holds all new challenges which Cheyenne has to fight through to make sense of the world. She wants to fit in, to look like everyone else, to be able to laugh at jokes, and be silly like the rest of her peers. But Cheyenne doesn’t get jokes, she has curly hair, glasses, and is taller than her teacher.
In seventh grade, she is realizing her world is not like everyone else’s, she has to fight the way her mind interprets all of its sensory mis-communications (Imagine trying to have a conversation while standing in the middle of a casino with every machine hitting jackpot at once and confetti blowing everywhere). Everything from smells wafting in the air, to the way her clothing feels on her body, she has to learn to tune out in order to process what is happening within the bounds of the socialization happening around her.
As I straighten her hair, I begin to tell her how perfect she is. (This means I’m standing on top of the tub to reach her hair).
“God created you for something special, I don’t know what it is yet, Chy, but you have gifts, abilities, and talent for the purpose God planned for you. Everything from your hair to your heart has been made absolutely perfect. You’re stunning, you’re powerful because you’re a child of God.”
As we stand there in the silence, the song Mean by Taylor Swift plays over the radio and we get silly. Grabbing our hairbrushes, singing along together knowing her only focus was to tune others out and listen for God’s truth. As we dance around our bathroom, somewhere in the middle of it, I get what she’s going through, someday and soon I hope, she will be strengthened enough in who she is and not what everyone makes her out to be.
After hugging her skinny, five foot nine inch frame, I send her off to bed, feeling like I have no clue what I’m doing in this stage of motherhood but being real with her has somehow helped.
How do I encourage her when I don’t understand how she sees her world? How can I cheer her on if she cannot believe in herself? All I can do is love her the best I can while leading her through God’s word and pray that God reveals to Cheyenne the beauty and a strength that she holds all on her own.
Heather Riggleman is a recovering mom to three very active children. She is also a Nebraska favorite speaker and is currently blazing a new trail for moms in the midst of motherhood. Her goal is to show how real and tangible God is in our every day lives.