Our children are created the way they are for a purpose. I want to take the chance to encourage you mothers out there, especially those with a child that is strong willed and outspoken. Take heart!
Over ten years ago, at a large gathering of coworkers, a speaker said, "God looks out over all the Southern Baptist churches and looks for the most stubborn people and sends them to West Africa." It did not sound like a compliment, but it was true. People who continue to serve and live in West Africa have to be pretty stubborn.
So when we went back to the states and would speak to groups about our work, I would encourage those mothers of preschoolers that it may be that two year old who was testing her patience daily was meant to go to West Africa. God had a purpose for that child.
Unfortunately, I tended to forget that when it came to my own child. Often in the trenches of motherhood, it can be easy to forget the truths. Often times I found myself striving against Mariama's strong will and even endeavoring to squelch it. Then I had to be reminded of my own words.
So in recent years, I have tried to encourage her at times to "tone down the fabulousness so that others can catch up." I have tried to let her have places where she could express her vitality of life while learning to tone it down in other places. I have tried to give structure to her "joie de vivre." I have tried to remember that it is for a purpose, while still giving boundaries.
Last week, I had the opportunity to get a glimpse of how she is meant to use that gift. While it was not the first time, it was certainly a defining moment.
At her new school, the students in grades 6-9 get to prepare one week to teach students grades 1-5 the next week. The younger students get to choose which group they join. The older students can teach alone or in a group. (I might mention that Mariama is the only new student in grades 6-9.)
On the first day that the older students met together with the headmistress to learn how the program would work, Mariama and two of her new friends decided that they would work together. They would do some learning games.
On the second day that they met, the two other girls started to separate to join other groups. Mariama encouraged them to stay together but that maybe sometimes they could do the learning games and sometimes they could collaborate with the other groups. The two girls agreed.
Unfortunately, that was not the end of things. The group then discussed who of the younger students would be in their group and planned how to invite them to join the group. The other girls said that they would invite everyone except one little girl, "who talks too much," and a little boy, with autism, in Lydia-Ann's class. Mariama was going to have none of that.
Mariama told them they needed to include everyone. Her colleagues disagreed. Not one to take things lying down, she proceeded to plead her case to the headmistress of the school. The headmistress was in full agreement with Mariama and encouraged her to insist that all be invited to join the group. So of course, Mariama did and won the group members over, whether they liked it or not.
Then to take things a step further, that night, she sat down to handwrite a note to send home with every child that was interested in their group, asking them to bring a tomato for their gardening project this week. For the little boy with autism, because at first he said yes and then said no, she wrote a special note. She explained that the boy had said he was interested and then said he was not. If he was, she asked the parents to send a tomato also. However, she also listed all the other groups, so that maybe his parents could talk to him about what he wanted to do.
I could only feel pride as she recounted this story to me and saw her writing each note with such care. I wish she would take such care with all of her writing, but if I have to choose between nice handwriting and sticking up for the rejected, defending the weak wins every time.
To those mothers still very much in the trenches, remember your children are made the way they are for a purpose. I might need to reread this myself periodically to be reminded as well. They are "born for this."