“I am who I am and who I am is just fine.”
Those were the words that my 8 year old blurted back at me the other day. You see, I had made a big mistake as a Mom. I know that’s hard to believe, but it happened. We were going through some vocabulary words for Katie’s school assignment and I was getting very frustrated. Katie and I bunk heads a lot when it comes to school work. She lashes out at me, and I attack right back. It is a sick cycle that is hard to break.
For many years we have fought this battle, and yesterday – finally – Katie was able to use her words and voice her opinion. Katie’s school which is a Montessori based school allows her to finish most of her work in class. It leaves us with little to do at home and allows time to just enjoy each other and have fun. It has been an amazing experience for both of us. Every so often there are projects that require at home work. This month we are working on a project on desert animals. It is exhausting and time consuming, and has set Katie and I up for another battle. So with this project dangling in front of us along with her weekly vocab lesson – disaster occurred.
My two other children are significantly older than Katie, so usually Katie and I are stuck in the car most afternoons picking up kiddos from practice. This is when we practice our vocab and spelling lessons. We were in the car and I just lost it with her. She obviously had not even looked at her words that week. I know she struggles with reading, but she hadn’t even tried to learn her vocab. She just waited on me to teach her. I was frustrated because I didn’t have time to teach her this week. After all, we had spent hours on that darn desert animal!
So with my short temper and her lack of taking responsibility a huge battle ensued in my mini van.
“Katie, you obviously have not taken any time to read through these vocabulary words this week. I know you have a hard time reading, but you haven’t even tried. It is very irritating to me that you are not taking responsibility for your actions. I realize that you have a hard time reading 3rd grade words, but how are you going to learn to read if you don’t try? Maybe instead of placing so much emphasis on your math lessons, you need to practice your reading.” This was my statement.
This is what Katie HEARD: “Katie you do not deserve to be on this earth.”
So we sat in the mini van waiting for kids to come in from practices and Katie continued to read aloud her vocab words to me. All the while, I had no idea that she was thinking that I said to her, “You don’t deserve to be on this earth.” After my oldest daughter had popped into the car and my only son had hopped out of the car, Katie began to cry.
“Mom, I am who I am and who I am is just fine.” She stated. The she continued, “You shouldn’t say those things to me.”
What? What on earth?
“Mom, you said that I do not deserve to be on this earth.”
“What the heck? When did I say that?” Unfortunately, Kate was adamant that I did say it, and in her head that is what I said.
How do I argue with that? Unfortunately, I cannot change the way Katie HEARS what I say. The more I tried to convince her that wasn’t what I said, the more she swore it was what I said. So I had to go back to the statement that she blurted out – I am who I am and who I am is just fine.
It sounded like a Montessori concept, so at first I assumed that is where she had picked up that statement. Then I said, “Please tell me you didn’t hear that on Spongebob Square Pants.” I don’t know why I thought of that, but I did. Of all the things that I really try to limit my kids on, for some reason I haven’t stopped Katie from watching that cartoon. I know some of you are going to gasp at the thought that I allow her to watch such bad television, but she loves it and nothing has ever held Katie’s attention like Spongebob. (notice I am rationalizing and if you read my blog the other day that usually is not a good thing when I begin to rationalize). Anyway, for the sake of this story I have to come clean. I allow Katie to watch Spongebob.
She timidly replied to me, “Yes mom I did! Sandy Cheeks says it all the time to Spongebob.”
Ofcourse she does.
My 15 year old and I just looked at each other. Who knew that Spongebob could teach such good lessons?
“I am who I am and who I am is just fine.”
Not only had Katie memorized it, but she knew how to use the statement correctly. It put me in my place. She was right. I apologized for my words that I used, then I reminded her that vocab is her responsibility, not mine. She needs to read through the words each day, not just the night before. If she gets stuck on a word, she should just ask me. I added that I loved her philosophy on life (or Sandy Cheek’s philosophy). Her statement was dead right. She should be proud of who she is because God made her that way for a reason.
In fact, I tell people that all the time in my blog and at my speaking engagements. Maybe I don’t use those exact words, but the concept is there.
God made us all uniquely. He proved that to me when we gave birth to our 3rd child, Katie. Katie is unique and special and beautiful. I love that about her, and at times that is what causes a lot of our spats. She sticks up for who she is. She knows she struggles in reading, but she loves math. She even let me know after this poignant statement that she is studying up on her science right now and forgoing math because she knows she needs work in that area. I love that she can use her words now to describe when her anxiety is coming on. She has embraced her difficulties in life, and chosen to make them part of her identity. And that identity is the one that God gave her – it does not rely on anyone else. God created her to be strong – to fight hard battles at a young age.
Why am I trying to make her into a little version of me or her sister or her brother? Why am I constantly pushing her beyond what she is capable of? Well, in some ways I push her because I know God will give her the strength to do the impossible and I don’t want her to ever doubt that. But with that in mind, I also have to allow her to be who she is made to be; not who I can mold her into being. God does the molding – not me.
I don’t want her to go through life always trying to be someone she is not, always pursuing other people’s dreams, always sliding her identity into her friend’s identity. I want her to strive to be the best Katie Slamkowski that God made her to be.
So today when you are struggling at work to live up to the demands of your boss, or when you are a stressed out stay-at-home mom trying to live up to society’s demands remember that poignant quote from Spongebob Squarepants, “I am who I am and who I am is just fine.”