And I think when your child has special needs or physical differences that immediately set them apart from other children, there is a tendency to fear and worry even more about inclusion.
I used to pray about this a lot for Brenna. I would ask God to help her not be self-conscious or insecure about her appearance as she grew older. I would pray that she wouldn't ever be jealous that Connor "got normal skin" and she didn't.
And then, over time, I began to realize how unrealistic this kind of request is. Because everyone is self-conscious about their appearance at some point….or usually many points throughout their life. At this second, I can list a dozen times when I've felt completely insecure about how I looked, about what I was wearing, or how my hair was.
Instead, I need God's help to foster confidence and self-love in my children.
But how do we teach confidence? How do we teach our kids to be comfortable with who they are? I wonder about these questions all the time, especially when I see glimpses of confidence in my own children. Did I teach that somehow? Did I model that? Or are they just naturally like that?
On a daily basis, we are told we're not pretty enough, our hair is not this or that, our bodies are not perfect enough…and that we need to buy all of this stuff to even attempt to be satisfied with ourselves.
I used to fall prey to that way of thinking. Now, I strive to admire instead of envy. I know that I don't want to be around people if they don't possess the qualities of true beauty and bring positive to my life. I always look to be overwhelmed by the beauty around me.
Brenna's arrival into my life taught me how to like myself and how to love myself. Because of her, I realized how the incredibly overwhelming extent of my love for both of my children relates to God's love - in seeing them, I see nothing but beautiful, nothing but miracle. It has given me a small glimpse of the love that God has for us and for all of his children.
It's taken me far too long, but I am finally starting to comprehend how loving ourselves as God loves us is part of glorifying God. We were all created exactly as God wants us to be, for his glory and for his purpose. When we love ourselves, when we become who he created us to be, instead of trying to be people we are not, we are not only glorifying God, but we are also showing God to the world. This is such a powerful concept that I'm still trying to wrap my head around it.
"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." I don't think it gets more clear than Psalm 139 in describing our unique and deliberate creation.
But how do we teach our children about this love, about self-confidence, about loving how God created them? I am trying hard to discover these answers every day.
But I think there is one main thing I want both of my children to know as they face peer acceptance:
Rejection hurts. Rejection in all forms can cause deep pain, resentment and bitterness.
But rejection does not define you. The way other people rate you does not define you.
If people ever stare at you or make rude remarks, if kids ever decide they don't want to play with you because of how you look, if someone ever judges you negatively before they get to know you…
it's because of who they are
NOT because of who you are.