“My ten-year old daughter is bright. She makes good grades in school, she’s a good test taker. She is also extremely artistic and flighty and lives with her head permanently in the clouds. We often describe her as ‘oblivious.’ We don’t mean it in a cruel way, she’s just often so blissfully unaware of what’s going on around her because she’s so happy in the moment. She has the sunniest disposition of just about anyone I know. What she sometimes lacks in common sense will be OK because she floats through life with such compassion and cheer. She’s special.
She also puts her clothes on backwards. Often. This goes back to the oblivious thing. Let’s be clear, she is perfectly capable of dressing herself and doing it correctly. I’m not poking fun at something beyond her control, nor would I make fun of a child who needed extra assistance in figuring this out at any age for any reason. That’s not my daughter. My girl is just too busy creating art and enjoying life to be bothered with details like which side of her shirt is the front. Just a couple of years ago, she put her JEANS on backwards and didn’t even notice. Sweet girl came downstairs with the two back pockets on the front, just bopping around, ready to eat breakfast. That’s who she is, and we love her for it.
As she gets older, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I get frustrated with her sometimes for being so oblivious. Girlfriend, you are pushing your eleventh birthday and your shirt is on backwards yet again. She’d be mortified if she walked into school like that. So, I always correct her, but it continues to happen because the truth is, she just doesn’t care enough to remember to check her clothing. I couldn’t be more different than her in that regard, I’m the type who cares about details like that. So that makes it a little hard for me to understand and parent well.
The other morning she was getting ready for school and I walked by her room. Her shirt was on backwards. Again. And to me it was so obvious. I mean the back collar of the shirt was all up in her neck, not one thing about this arrangement looked comfortable or normal to me. I had no idea how she could be making her bed, going about her morning and not notice. But she didn’t. It was funny to me. So, I laughed. I’m a little embarrassed about my behavior at this point, but the truth is I laughed hard. I thought it was so funny that I called out to my husband, ‘Hey Daddy, come here you’ve got to see this!’ Of course, she had no idea what he was coming to see, so I told her, ‘Your shirt!!!’ Before he got to her room, she burst into tears. She was embarrassed and sad because her mother was laughing at her. (See why I feel bad here?) I didn’t imagine that my behavior would be hurtful because it was funny to me. But it wasn’t funny to her. There have been other times when she laughed too, but today wasn’t one of those days. I didn’t pick up on her cues. Something struck her differently and there I was, someone she cared about, laughing at her.
The only reason I can share this story without feeling totally horrible about myself is it proves that I did do one thing right, and that was choose the man to be the father of my children. As he approached her room, he heard the crying and quickly figured out what had gone down. He calls out, ‘Wait! I’m coming! Just hold on one second, I gotta turn this thing around…’ He flipped his shirt around backwards in the hallway before going into her room and then walked in and said, ‘Oh hey, what’s going on?’
Do you know what he did? He was WITH her. He wasn’t trying to fix her (or laugh at her like her own mother did that morning). He just sat with her in her backwards-ness. Do you know that she immediately quit crying and a smile broke out on her face? They laughed and they hugged in their backwards shirts. Talked for a second and eventually both turned their shirts around the right way. What a beautiful moment I witnessed.
I don’t always get it wrong. My point in sharing isn’t to bash myself for accidentally hurting my daughter’s feelings. For everyone time I’ve gotten it wrong, I like to think there are five more when I got it right. But sometimes I do get it wrong, and that’s why I have an incredible husband to swoop in. I swoop in for him sometimes too.
I learned so much from him that morning. People often use the phrase that somebody would give the shirt off their back. My husband is that kind of guy, in fact I’ve used that phrase to describe him many times. He’s also the kind of guy that would turn his shirt around. That’s not something you hear people talk about, but it really struck me we should be talking about this. When people are hurting, or different, or left out, what if instead of giving them our shirt to make them like us, or instead of trying to fix their problem, what if we just joined them? Sat with people in their sadness. Made ourselves different like them. Celebrated their uniqueness or even just acknowledged their problems briefly before trying to help them fix themselves? He didn’t come in and turn her shirt around for her or point out her inadequacies. He took away her sadness first by joining her, and then they fixed it together. It was pure genius and perfect love that I saw.
My daughter needed this gesture on that morning. It was so simple (how did I not think of this?) but the most powerful representation of love in action. It made me think about Olaf who said some people are worth melting for. Hey Olaf, I’d add that some people are worth turning your shirt around backwards for.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Sara Justice. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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