As the kids piled into the van, I noticed Lindsay’s hair, which looked like it hadn’t been brushed in a week. I said, “Lindsay! Did you even look in the mirror today? Your hair is a mess! We never see these people! And, oh no! Are those the jeans that are too short for you?”
It was too late. My husband had already pulled out and would not be turning around for longer jeans.
When I turned to pass a brush back, I shouldn’t have been surprised to see red eyes and damp cheeks. Feeling terrible about my insensitivity, I left my spot beside my husband and climbed to the back seat to hug her close. I whispered, “Honey, I’m so sorry. Your hair looks fine. Don’t worry about it. And no one’s going to measure the length of your jeans.”
She said, “I meant to get ready, but my book was at a really good part…”
Never mind that we were headed to a home where there would be teenage boys. Here was a little girl who preferred time with a book to time in a mirror. She usually did get up early to straighten her thick, wavy hair, but only because she didn’t want to be the only seventh grade girl at her lunch table without straight hair. She wanted to blend and fly under the radar and not be noticed.
Besides, today was Saturday. A day of reprieve. A day to not worry about how you look or whether your hairdo will match the others at your lunch table or whether your jeans are long enough. At least not until your mother starts passing out hair and clothing demerits.
As I searched my heart, looking for what had caused my sharp, critical words, I realized that I had braided my own self-worth in with my daughter’s hair. I was measuring myself with the length of her jeans. I was more concerned about what my friends would think about my family’s ‘packaging’ than I was about the precious daughter beneath the unruly hair and outgrown jeans.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with having tidy hair and clothes that fit, or making my family look presentable. But when Jesus surveyed the crowds, he spent the most time warning people who looked presentable. He rebuked the perfect-looking Pharisees, and called them whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside, but decaying and rotten on the inside. (Matthew 23:27)
As a mom, if I spend all of my efforts on beautiful packaging, the children underneath will be terribly neglected and rotting. My real work is cultivating beautiful people, not beautiful packaging. Any worth or merit in my mothering is found in what lies beneath the surface; not what is readily apparent.