Yesterday as I was about to drop off Natalie to her enrichment class at school, she burst into tears. What just happened to my happy girl? Just minutes prior all was well. “Mama I’ve been thinking about this and haven’t told you yet…..” sobs….tears rolling down her cheeks…..”Mama, people say my voice is too loud. They tell me that I need to be more quiet when I talk. I can’t help it that my voice is loud. I try to talk softer, but even then people say I’m too loud. In my head I hear myself talking more quiet, but it comes out loud.” Bright, shiny tears rolling on her beautiful cheeks. My joy-filled girl was no longer joyful. Deep inside she was pained by comments that had been spoken over days, weeks and perhaps even a few months. And right then in that moment her heart was bursting and she wanted to tell me. I immediately thought of a book I had once read….it is SO true…you simply cannot plan for quality time with your child. The quality, deep times happen in the midst of quantity of time. Hours upon hours, days upon days of togetherness and I could not have planned or anticipated we would be having that deep moment of her broken heart just as she was about to exit the minivan to head off to her cooking class. I assured her I heard the hurt of her heart. I offered to let her come back home with me to continue talking about it. She said, ‘no, she wanted to go to cooking class.’ I let her know that there are situations where her louder voice are a gift. For instance, when we went hiking up at Mt. Baldy and she and others wanted to hike back down the dry river bed. The moms were all going down the mountainside on the trail. It was so helpful to our mama’s ears to be able to hear Natalie from a distance. We knew exactly where the kiddos were on their adult-less journey down the river bed. The moms found comfort in knowing they wouldn’t get separated/lost from us, because we could consistently track Natalie’s voice. That story seemed to comfort her a bit. Off she went, with tear-stained cheeks and red eyes to her cooking class.
70 minutes later I was in the valet pick-up lane at school, waiting for Natalie and Jacob to exit their classes. Out they came, bounding for the car and smiling. I thought to myself “oh perhaps the cooking class helped her”. Nope. She sat in her seat, put her seatbelt on and no sooner had the door automatically slid shut when she looked at me and said “Mama, people don’t like my voice. They say I’m too loud.” Oh my heart sank for her. She has been carrying this weight with her amidst her days. She goes through the routine of school and homeschool, seemingly joy-filled and yet deep, deep down her spirit is unsettled and restless and hurt by the comments some have made about her being so loud.
There is no denying that she is loud. She is indeed loud. Everything about her is done with power and fullness and intensity. She plays the piano keys forcefully. She jumps for joy at the sight of her daddy coming home from work- running with full abandon to the front door to throw herself into his arms. She needs much, much, much less sleep than her older brother. It’s like she has an internal energy engine. She shouts “hooray” louder than anyone in a room. She gives super tight rib-crushing hugs. She used to knock her friends over with her hugs; they didn’t anticipate the force that came with her embrace. Everything about her is full-power.
Well that same day of the tears…..was also the night of the final World Series Game between the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals. It was tied 3-3 in the number of games each had won up until that point. Tonight was THE final game to determine the winner of the baseball championship. It was a very close game. A nail-biting game. The Giants won!!!!!!!! It was awesome! Daddy jumped on the leather couch. (btw he neeeeeeever jumps on furniture; it only happens if/when the Giants win!) But this was a big deal! The kids couldn’t believe they were watching their grown father jumping on the couch. Of course they jumped into the fun as well. I just looked on disapprovingly. Ha! 🙂
Well how do you wind down super excited kids? It was past their bedtime and they had just witnessed a World Series win for daddy’s favorite team! Energy was high. I called them over to the couch to read a few nighttime stories. I picked up this book:
Jacob was the first to say “Mom, I’ve already read that book.” Then Natalie chimed in “Mama, I already read that book too.” I chuckled in my head, thinking back to the days of old when they wanted me to read the same book over and over and over and over again. There was a time when they were little when reading the same book 50 times was a delight. Now they’re at the stage where a re-reading seems unnecessary. They want to experience a new storyline.
I simply said “But the Giants just won the World Series! This book is perfect for how Daddy is feeling!!!” Indeed, they agreed, that was true. Little did I know that God was going to use this book to speak to Natalie and I.
Here’s the story (well, at least most of it):
The kiddos smiled and giggled as I read the story. My voice was definitely straining to keep up with all the exclamations in the book! It’s tiring reading that emphatically for so many exclamatory sentences. But I do it because I know it helps my kiddos delight in books. I love that they love books. I love to read with them. They both squealed with delight at the page that said “Home run!” It was perfect for this evening of the World Series winning game. It was a baseball-related exclamation!
I read one other book and then tucked them into bed. As I was getting ready for bed myself, the thought occurred to me, “Natalie is an exclamation point!” oh my goodness….that story is about her…..today she was crying saying she doesn’t fit in….her voice is too loud…..she’s not like all the other kids…..oh wow! I lifted up my thoughts into a prayer to the Lord. “Oh Lord, would you please help Natalie find confidence in being an exclamation point. You created her. Help her to find meaning and purpose in being an exclamation point.”
And then today He answered that prayer. Wow. I’m so grateful. A day after her tears were shed and the book was read and the prayer lifted up……she and I were sitting on the grass field, having just dropped off Jacob for his soccer practice. Again, a moment of quality time in simply being together. I think she could feel how unhurried we were, sitting there, and she began to share with me about a very, very, very, very special thing that happened to her at school today. “Mama, today my heart burst with joy!” she exclaimed. A radiant smile on her face. “What happened today, Natalie?” “Oh Mama, Mama….Ms. Robin was standing by the bookshelf and asked me which book I would like to read aloud to the class. I was shocked Mama! I couldn’t believe it! Inside I was bursting with joy. She asked me to read to the class!!!!!” Oh how the exclamatory sentences were flying from her mouth. Here she was, in her prime, in who God has created her to be. Full of life. Full of zest. Full of energy. “Mama, first she pulled one book and asked if I had ever read that book. I hadn’t. So then I picked out ‘One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish’ by Dr. Seuss. I definitely knew that story. So Mama guess what?!?! The Core 5 girl who helps in class had just played the piano for all of us. And then Ms. Robin said to the class, ‘Class now we have another treat…..Natalie is going to read a book to you.’ Ohhhhhhhh Mama, she said I was a treat. She used the word ‘treat’. That made me feel sooooooooooo special inside. Mama my heart was bursting with even more joy!!! And then Mama right after she said they would have the treat of me reading a book to them, I heard kids cheering and clapping and saying ‘yay!!!!’ Mama that also filled my heart with soooooooooo much joy!!!!!! And when she announced it, I specifically heard Kayla, who sits up front, shout ‘YAY!!!’ ”
“Oh my sweet Natalie, do you especially like Kayla? Did it mean a lot to you that Kayla cheered for you?” “Yes, Mama.” “Oh and Mama there’s even more! So when Ms. Robin reads to us, she pulls a chair out and puts it in front of the class. Guess what?!! She let ME sit on a chair in front of the class!!!! Mama do you know how special that made me feel?! REALLY special! All the kids were sitting on the rug looking at me. I held out my arm like this and held up the book just like teachers do. And then I started reading. The kids even laughed at the funny parts.” “Oh my sweet Natalie, that tells me you were reading with emphasis and great tones!”
“Natalie, has Ms. Robin had other students read aloud to the class?” “No Mama”
“Last year when you were in her class for 1st grade, did she ask any students to read aloud to the class?” “No Mama”
“Oh Natalie do you know what this means? Do you remember how yesterday you were crying because your voice is considered too loud by some people? Do you remember how I read to you the story about the exclamation point last night? Well, last night I said a prayer to God after I tucked you into bed. I asked Him to let you know that He created you to be an exclamation point and that’s okay. That it’s fabulous you are an exclamation point. And you know what? Today He answered my prayer. I believe He prompted your teacher’s heart to ask you to read aloud today. She knows that you have a loud enough voice that will carry to the ears of all the children sitting on the rug. If someone with a very soft voice got up front to read a book, there would be children who would be unable to hear the story. Your voice carries. Ms. Robin knew that your voice could carry the words of the story into each of the corners of the classroom. All would be able to hear and enjoy the story. She also knew that you know how to read with enthusiasm. That when you read, you can add tones to the characters and use your voice inflections to carry words in an interesting way to the listening ears. She knew this about you Natalie. And so the very thing you were crying about yesterday, was the very talent that Ms. Robin called upon to be a gift and treat to your class today. Today your loud voice was celebrated.
And that’s when I realized it was no coincidence that God prompted me to pull out the exclamation point story last night. That helped me see and treasure my exclamation point girl. It helped give me words for a specific prayer last night. I was beyond grateful for the perfect timing of her teacher’s request of Natalie today. Perfect, beautiful timing. A request that had never been made to Natalie or any other student this year nor last school year. But today it happened. The very next day after Natalie shed tears for her loud voice, that very part of her was celebrated. Yesterday she felt ashamed. Today her confidence soared. She is my exclamation point and I will forever make a point of celebrating her for that!
I’m smiling ear to ear. God is so good, and your little Natalie is a beautiful “!”