The school bus lumbered down the road that morning, carrying the few dozen of us to our prospective schools. My friend sat beside me, chattering away. At one point she flipped her white-blond hair over her shoulder and said, “We could have a special club, just for girls with blonde hair! Except, well, yours is more of a dirty blond, not perfect blonde, like mine.”
At nine years old I knew what she was doing, offering me an insult to make herself feel better. It stung a bit. But there was a voice that spoke much louder in my life than hers. A voice that echoed in my memories, even years later on a school bus.
I don’t know why my dad brushed my hair that morning. Usually it was Mama who sat me down, pulled the tangles out and braided it. But that particular morning it was Papa who sat behind me. He talked quietly about this and that while he worked, then stopped. “Wait right here,” he told me, “don’t move an inch.”
In a few minutes he was back with a camera. He snapped a photograph of the way the sun broke through the window and warmed the back of my head. “Your hair is beautiful, Tashie-girl,” he told me, “it looks just like spun gold in the sunlight.”
As the school bus meandered down East Hill, I just shrugged at my friend’s comment. “My dad says my hair is the color of spun gold,” I told her. The girl with the white-blond hair didn’t have an answer to that and I don’t think we ever discussed hair color again.
I still have the picture, you know. And I have other photographs from other days.
I really did have dirty blond hair. It wasn’t spectacular. It wasn’t extra special. But Papa didn’t lie to me either, because the golden rays of sunlight really did make my drab dirty-blond hair look like glittering spun gold.
And I was extra special to him. Spectacular, even. I was his. And he established the authority to speak into my life by laying down a foundation of confidence. I didn’t have to wonder who I was. I knew.
When high school came and went, I faced the same questions that every teenage girl does. I grew awkward and frumpy. My hair frizzed and darkened. It wasn’t even dirty blond any more and it wasn’t really brown either. It just was.
I came to the harsh realization that I was never going to be one of the “pretty girls” who made all the guys take a second look. I was just regular old me. Kinda short. Kinda round.
But I never looked into the mirror without hearing my parent’s voices.
- Your eyes are so blue, Tashie-girl. They glitter when you smile.
- Your hair is getting curly! All those ringlets.
- Your laugh can light up a room.
- Your so witty, everyone loves listening to you tell stories.
They didn’t just rain praises down on me, they looked at me realistically. They only spoke truth. They corrected me when I was wrong, disciplined me when I was defiant, and encouraged me to acknowledge my own sinfulness and need for a Savior.
But they also made their opinions about my worth known. Not just about my looks, but about my abilities, my talents, my intelligence. And when I stepped out into the world, I wasn’t a whirlwind of self-depreciation. I was confident.
Parents, when your children are young your words speak the loudest.
What are you going to tell them? What kind of foundation are you laying?
Speak truth and make sure you’re speaking all of the truth. Don’t ignore their weaknesses or overlook where they need correction, but grab onto their strengths and carefully, brick-by-brick, lay a foundation for them.
When they face life, when the kids at school pick on them, when they’re interviewing for a job, when they face suffering and loss– when the enemy feeds them lies, whispering that they are worthless and unwanted— it just might be that the words and actions you’ve laid into their lives will give them the knowledge they need to overcome.
You may also enjoy:
One Thing You Need to be Praying Over Your Kids