“The girls at school said something must be wrong with me because I am the only one who doesn’t have a boyfriend,” Makenna told me as she ate her after-school snack at the kitchen table.
“What?” I asked, trying my best to sound like I wasn’t about to go mom-crazy on a bunch of third grade girls. “How are you the only third grader who doesn’t have a boyfriend?”
“Mom,” Makenna said with exaggerated patience, “boys like girls in third grade.”
“Well, there is nothing wrong with you,” I told her, wishing I could wrap her in cotton balls so nothing would ever hurt her.
“How can we be sure?” she asked as she dipped an apple slice in cinnamon and took a big bite.
She had a good question. How can she be sure nothing is wrong with her? When all the people in her world were telling her one negative message, how could she be sure it wasn’t true? If I simply contradicted them, how could she be certain my message was the one she should listen to? It bothered me because I knew she needed to find the message in a way that didn’t simply rely on my word contradicting the words of her friends. She needed a stronger message than my voice alone.
Later, after I had time to muster up some brilliance, I told Makenna, “The Bible says that God sings over you and He delights in you. And even the Declaration of Independence says that everybody is equal and has the rights. Your friend’s opinions, and even my opinion, are biased, but the writers of the Bible and the writers of the Declaration of Independence weren’t saying these things just to be nice – they objectively believe each person is loved and has dignity and rights.
“It’s like this,” I continued. “You know how you can be in a crowd of people and if someone shouts, “Jessica!” only a few girls turn to look? It’s because everyone in the crowd knows if their name is Jessica or not. So, as you go through life, know your name. Know what it is and know what it is not. Here are some things your name is not: stupid, klutz, weirdo, annoying, wrong. Here are some things your name is: accepted, child of God, known, chosen, loved, consecrated, powerful, citizen, equal. You don’t need your name plus anything. So you don’t need a boyfriend, a perfect score, a bad friend, name brand clothes, make up. You are enough just as you are.”
As the kids entered their teenage years, it was important to remind them, almost daily, that their name was not ADD, loveless, irrational, incompetent, fat, or ugly. And, as a parent, I had to be reminded that my name was not overwhelmed, out of touch, old, or exhausted. When I was around certain groups of other moms, I had to be okay with the fact that my name was not country club, Paris vacation, new car, organic, organized, or never let my kids get hurt or dirty.
Know your name is both an encouragement and a challenge. If the Bible calls you one who is full of love, then act lovely. If the Declaration of Independence says you have dignity, then be dignified.
And don’t worry if people don’t understand you. They don’t know your name.