One day Punchinello met a Wemmick who was unlike any he’d ever met. She had no dots or stars. She was just wooden. Her name was Lucia.
It wasn’t that people didn’t try to give her stickers; it’s just that the stickers didn’t stick. Some of the Wemmicks admired Lucia for having no dots, so they would run up and give her a star. But it would fall off.
Others would look down on her for having no stars, so they would give her a dot. But it wouldn’t stay either.
That’s the way I want to be, thought Punchinello. I don’t want anyone’s marks.
The school year is winding down, and as Jen Hatmaker so BRILLIANTLY summarized yesterday, we are limping to the end. We are all so done, so ready to be home for the summer. My older two have had an especially rough year. Lots of frustration, lots of opportunity for character development—which, of course, sucks. We’re all done with challenge and stretching and growing, thankyouverymuch. Bring on the lazy mornings and sunscreen.
Last week, I spent my final Monday morning with my 1st grade babies at the Title I school where I have volunteered for the last three years. These kids. Mercy. They walk in the door every day with the odds stacked against them, but they push through anyway. Some of them barely knew their letter sounds at the beginning of the year. Now they are reading at the required grade level. I have much to learn from these boys and girls.
On my last day, I bring each child a wrapped copy of You are Special, by Max Lucado. They excitedly open them together, and then I read the story to them as they follow along in their own books. I have grand, imaginative dreams of these kids reading these books every day, remembering how much I love them, how special they are. I daydream about one day when they’re older, finding the book under the bed or in the closet, and exclaiming, “oh, I love this book! Mrs. Hunt gave me this book! I remember her!” And then sitting down to read it again, finally recognizing the truth in the allegory.
But maybe they won’t. And that’s okay too.
You Are Special is the story of Punchinello, a wooden person living in a village of wooden people who walk around all day sticking golden stars or gray dots on each other, depending on how fabulous or miserable they assess each other to be. Poor Punchinello is covered in gray dots, which he hates almost as much as he hates himself. Then he meets Lucia, and when he asks her why the stickers don’t stick on her, she points him to Eli, the woodcarver who made all the Wemmicks. Punchinello visits Eli in his workshop, and discovers that “the stickers only stick if they matter to you. The more you trust my love,” Eli tells him, “the less you care about their stickers.”
So Punchinello agrees to return to Eli’s workshop every day so the woodcarver can remind him how much he cares, how special and unique and precious Punchinello is. And as he leaves the workshop, a gray dot falls to the ground.
Cue: snot and tears.
As I wrote earlier, my pursuit of shame resilience has begun. I’ve started recognizing the voices of shame and scarcity—of not being worthy of love and belonging, of not being enough—for what they are: big fat lies. I’ve fought them off with words of truth: I Am Enough. I Am Worthy. God has created me and purposed me for great things, and for that reason alone, the opinions of others will not move me.
In theory, of course. Announcing to the universe that I refuse to be shamed swings open the door and invites shame to come in. That’s just how it works. But I’m ready for it.
We are a hurt and damaged people, surrounded by those who are also hurt and damaged. And what do the hurt and damaged people do? They fill their pockets and purses with gray dot stickers, ready to stick one on the nearest hurt and damaged target. Max Lucado forgot to mention one tiny detail about these gray dots: the underside of the stickers carry sharp barbs that hurt.
I was slapped with two gray dots last week. One was labeled Bad Mom. The other was Spoiled and Indulgent. Both hit me at my weakest, most tender place of insecurity. It stung. Badly.
But not for long. Instead of my default self-doubt and flagellation, I actually remembered what I read and flicked them off with empowered self-talk and truth. I Am Enough. I Am Worthy. I Am Created and Purposed.
And that was that.
Seriously? It’s that easy? Yeah, it kinda is, I guess. I’m a little surprised.
The gray dots kept trying to jump back on my skin (sneaky little suckers, they are), but the more I flicked them off, the less sticky they became. Imagine that.
The greater quest is teaching my kids shame resilience. You would think that would be easier than conquering shame yourself—after all, they have far fewer years of listening to the voices of shame. But they also have not developed a full sense of identity yet, and their insecurities are more susceptible to lies. Their tender, thin skin multiplies the pain of the barbs. Which only confirms what we already suspected: this parenting gig is not for wimps.
We have to be the kind of people we wish our children to be. They have to see us fighting shame and scarcity, building resilience, listening to truth. They need to hear about our battles so they can find the courage to take up the sword. And we have to speak truth into their lives over and over and over until they believe us—even when they roll their sweet little eyes to the heavens and wonder why their parents are completely whacko.
I tiptoed upstairs last night before going to bed to tell Meghan good-night. She had just turned on the water for her shower, but I asked her to turn it off and sit on her bed with me. “Okaaaaay,” she said with a suspicious, guarded smile.
I put my arm around her and handed her the baby blankets she pretends she doesn’t have anymore. “I want to read you a story. I haven’t read you a bedtime story in a really long time.”
“Okaaaaay,” she said. My mom has officially lost her mind, she was thinking.
So I began.
“The Wemmicks were small wooden people carved by a woodworker named Eli…”