Tears and more tears.
Kristin, my 13-year-old daughter is, in a word, lovely.
Mind you, I’m not bragging -- I had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that she is a gorgeous young thing. We all know that the children God gives us are at his discretion. And they are all -- every one of them, in their own unique ways -- precious, lovely and of great worth.
Kristin is also lovely on the inside -- and thoughtful, even pensive at times. She has a moral compass and knows how to use it, often courageously standing up to the crowd when she instinctively knows something feels wrong. Which is why it is particularly painful to see her in distress.
Despite her keen sense of morality, Kristin is still a teenager, subject to the pressures of our modern toxic culture. On this particular day, we are shopping for swimwear and shorts for our summer vacation. But the last two hours have almost made me want to bag the whole trip.
If you don’t have young girls, then you probably can’t understand the dilemma. It’s quite simple, really. The problem is that there are virtually no swimsuits, tops or shorts designed for tweens and teens that don’t resemble something a streetwalker would wear. As a capitalist, I find it very strange that an entire segment of the American population is so underserved -- very strange indeed. Most of the moms and dads I know are thoroughly frustrated with the poor selection of clothing, but in the end, shrug their shoulders, cast aside their best judgment, and purchase the teeny weenie bikini for their innocent young daughters anyway.
But not me. We try on item after item, hoping against hope that maybe the next pair of shorts actually comes up somewhere close to the waist, or the next bathing suit isn’t really as tiny and baring as it looks on the hanger. But time after time, I have to shake my head and say, “no.” Which is why tears are starting to well up in Kristin’s beautiful green eyes.
For a moment, I think of ignoring the reddening eyes as we continue our mission to find something decent. But I think better of it, sigh, and simply, softly say, “Sweetheart” as I step forward and hug her close. This act of understanding is enough to send the pooled waters spilling down her cheeks. We remain in our silent embrace for several minutes and then I step back and wipe away her tears. She sweetly smiles as I say, “ We’ll keep on looking -- no matter how long it takes -- until we find something you like, and that also reflects the honor and respect for your body that you deserve.”
Later, with only two items that pass muster -- as I’m putting the hangers on the dozens of items that didn’t work -- Kristin comes to me. She puts her arms around my neck and says, “I’m sorry I was being so difficult.” Again, she sheds a few tears, and I marvel at the incredible gift, privilege and responsibility of being a mother.
“Kristin,” I say, “You weren’t difficult at all. I’m sorry you live in a world where so many adults have failed in their responsibility to treat children like the treasures you are. Thanks for allowing me to be the mom, Kristin. The mom who loves you more than anyone in the world could possibly love you. The mom who wants what is best for you.” She steps back, looks directly in my eyes, and says, “I love you, mommy.”
We leave the store a bit more determined to fight for our values, a bit more disgusted that there has to be a battle at all, and a lot closer to each other. All in all, it’s been a day I will long remember and even come to cherish as a reminder that fighting the culture is sometimes frustrating and exhausting, but always, always worth the effort.