In yet another recent conversation with my eight-year-old, we were discussing genetics and what her future might hold. Her blue eyes are mine, her tanned skin her daddy’s. Her smile resembles Aunt Carrie, her toes Aunt Katy. But today’s concern was her height. Dan’s mother is lithe and tall, perhaps 5'10'' or 5'11''. My mother is barely a hair’s breadth over five feet on a humid day! (It makes for an interesting gene pool!) As we contrasted the various shapes and sizes of God’s many human creatures, Emma seemed fixated on what was “normal.”
But what is the most common hair color? What is the average skin tone? What height is normal? I told her that my height is about average, at 5'4'' or so. Her sutomatic response was, “So if I am going to be around 5'10'', than I am six inches from normal?”
Do you ever hear words echoing around in the halls of your mind? Ever since that comment from her, “Six inches from normal … six inches from normal,” has been bouncing around my brain. Sounds kind of like a high school band maybe. But it got me thinking.
In Mary Piphers book, Reviving Ophelia, she asserts that the pressures and assaults that young girls face in today’s schools and social circles damage their fragile souls in ways that take years to recover. She pitches out, “Why do our eight- and nine-year-old daughters sing at the top of their lungs in the shower and parade their dress-ups and dolls without shame, and yet two or three years later, we lose their sparkling personalities to self-conscious stammers, downcast eyes, and castaway toys.” Too many of this generation’s young mothers remember all too well the caste systems, the exclusivity and the harshness of just being female. Why do we have such stringent standards of normal? Especially for girls and women in American culture. I think the most ironic part is that so often we, as women, impose those standards on ourselves!
Nevertheless, I am on a mission to fertilize and water my little seedlings as they bloom and grow into the precious and unique treasures that God has created them to be. And yet to simultaneously shelter them for a time from the abrasive winds of adolescent girlhood. Within the derision and ridicule that they encounter, their fragile minds are hearing, “You can’t like that, or look like that, or do that, and still be accepted here.” And so they adapt. Camouflage. Chameleon. But over time, they sacrifice precious ingredients of who they are on the altar of popularity and acceptance.
I encourage you—as mothers, sisters, women, humans—to both break the judgmental cycle among grown women and to also unconditionally support and love the little girls in your life. Growing up is rough these days! Emma has already encountered petty cliquism among girls as young as seven and eight, but we also uncovered that most often, the mothers were modeling that detrimental behavior at home in their own peer relationships. It’s a selfish, “look-out-for-number-one” mentality that permeates social interactions and nullifies godly mercy and love. Let us give our daughters the gift of freedom to be themselves! To be individual and quirky and off-beat. To be tom-boyish and dirty and lanky and freckled and inquisitive and talkative and giggly and idealistic. And to be loved and cherished and accepted and adored all the same. For in that place, they can grow into the person God made them to be.
For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth.—Psalms 139:13-15
And who wants to be a clone anyway. Six inches from normal? Should we all be so lucky.