Determined to make my resolutions happen this year, I checked the first one off my list and attended a new church on Sunday. True to form, Stink dove right into his Sunday school class. “I loved it!” he beamed. “They taught us everything through music and song and games. I could actually pay attention!”
Pipsqueak, on the other hand, was less enthused. She is my conservative throwback paper doll child. She wears black Mary Janes in winter and white sandals in summer and will not wear shirts with logos or faces of tween singers. No sparkles or glitter for her. She is pragmatic and elegant and a big fan of order and ritual. “I miss our Catholic Sunday School,” she moaned on our way back to the parking lot.
I can’t really blame her. Routine is important to me, too. If it was not, I would not be so hell bent or reorganizing the house. I would not drool like a love sick fool inside Home Goods when my eye lands on a set of toile shoe boxes.
But there’s a fire in me as well. The older I get, the less I like the feeling of stuffing my emotions inside my chest, like one might stuff socks inside that chic container set. Sure, it might look polished from an outsider’s view, but inside, you’ve got mismatched footies with stains and holes. Why not just get real about it? “I’ve got old socks! They don’t look good all the time, but they keep me warm and they are functional and I’m confident enough in myself I don’t care who I impress!”
Tourette Syndrome has taught me this attitude.
While I’d have liked my son to be just like his other friends in fourth grade — no throat clears, no eye rolls, no annoying Tarzan “uh uh uhs…” — the truth is, he is different. He makes sounds sometimes. He twitches.
And best of all, he’s OK with it. If my own son can be so comfortable in his skin, then I sure as heck deserve to be comfortable in mine. And this means finding a place of worship that lets me be Andrea.
“Pipsqueak,” I said to my daughter as we were tucked in bed last night, “I know you like the old church. And I’m not saying we won’t ever go back there. But you know how much you love your current school?”
She smiled wide. “Yes! I can’t wait for vacation to be over so we can go back.”
“Well, I didn’t have that same experience at school. In fact, did you know that I went to school at the very church you miss so much?”
“No, I didn’t know that,” she said.
“It’s true,” I answered. “And did you know that, for whatever reason, Mama never felt totally comfortable there?”
“Why not, Mama?” she asked.
“I suppose because I was good at academics, but I was not good at sports. I was taller than everyone else. I liked to sing and dance and act, but there were no programs for that. So instead of being myself, I had to kind of shut it all down to fit in with everyone else.”
“That’s sad, Mama,” she said.
“It is. And for a long time, I kept going back to that old church, hoping that maybe the people there were different than how they were when Mama was a little girl. And some are quite lovely! But some, well, aren’t. And that’s not good enough for me. It’s not going to be good enough for you or Stink, either.”
Pipsqueak didn’t say anything. She just held my hand and kept on listening.
“You need to be in a church where you can laugh and dance and be a bit more relaxed. It’s important to Mama. I want to try this new place. Will you do it with me?”
“Yes, I can,” she said. “I love you, Mama.”
“I love you, too, Pip.”
That night, I thanked God for Stink who would have told those old school bullies at the old church where to stick it.
And I said one for my daughter. My sweet, kind, ritual driven daughter who, despite not being a thing like her effusive mother who never met a yard sale she didn’t love, trusts me enough to try something new. (At least she has her father to keep the order around here.)
Happy 2013, everyone. May you be surrounded by people who let you be you.