I read a blog post this morning by Hands Free Mama, Rachel Macy Stafford. Her post “Children Who Shine From Within” has touched me. I cannot get it out of my head. I cannot shake it. I ask that you read her post before you read mine, so you can understand the references I make.
I have a firefly. Actually, I have both a butterfly and a firefly.
My butterfly lights up a room the second she walks into it. Her smile, energy, and passion for life are contagious. You cannot help but have fun around her simply because she is having fun. When we lived in Colorado and she was just a little thing, not even a year old, we attended church on Sunday, two kids in tow. Our son was well behaved. He read his books, ate his snacks, and as a baby, simply slept with his little head resting on my shoulder. Our butterfly was very different. We would walk into church and she was immediately excited. She was not excited about sitting and listening to the homily (sorry Father Steve) or the music. Oh no. She was sure there was a party going on and all of these people had gathered there to hang out and party with her.
My beautiful butterfly believes that the majority of your day should be spent having fun and, honestly, who can blame her? School is fun (thank goodness). Her friends are there! She learns new things! She loves her teacher! She wants to be a teacher too! My butterfly is good at sports and catches on quickly. She loves to read, dance, do art, sing, play with her friends, help her Dad with stuff in the garage, talk with her Mama and tell her stories, go out to dinner and go, go go. She has the energy to match her list of interests, too.
Like a butterfly, my girl loves to look good. She can't resist painting her nails, begs me to curl her hair, and loves putting outfits together. But don't tell her what outfit looks best or what color to paint her nails. Oh no! Her wings have been spreading since I can remember. Things must be figured out by her, on her own and then must be done by her, with as little help as possible.
I took her ice skating, for the first time, when she four or five years old. The management had placed large orange construction cones on the ice that the kids could use to hold onto. This would help them balance while they learned to skate, and the cones pushed smoothly across the ice, allowing them to skate without Mom or Dad having to hold their hand.
My son gladly took one and was off. He felt like a stud even with an orange cone. Would my butterfly use the cone? No, in fact she was furious at the suggestion. I offered my hand and said that I would help her. As the tears streaked her cold and rosy cheeks, she let me know how angry she was. Angry that I had suggested the use of the cone. Angry that I was at her side offering to hold her hand and teach her how to ice skate. No. She was furious that she couldn't automatically skate. She was going to figure this out on her own and I was not to offer help. As she clung to the wall around the rink, I backed away. Far enough away so she had room to spread her butterfly wings and figure this out on her own. Full of determination, she slowly circled the rink, testing her balance, scooting those tiny skates along. If she fell, I was there to swoop in and help her up, despite the tears and the demands to let her do it herself. And she did. Soon enough she was off of the wall, though inches away, slowly scooting and skating around the ice rink. Huge grin on her sweet face, proud that she had done it herself, with no help from Mama.
My butterfly flits into a room and right into your heart.
My firefly has always been cautious. He enters a room and sits back and takes it all in, watching, waiting. Observing and deciding who and what is safe, at least in his mind. Then he has to make the decision of whether to let you in, into his circle of trust.
You must be somewhat like him, to be part of his pack, allowed into his circle. Kind. You must be kind. He is one of the sweetest, most genuine people I know, and he cannot stand to see others be mean. Not only can he not stand it, but he truly doesn't understand it. He doesn't understand why someone would deliberately say or do something that would hurt someone else. And when I say he doesn't understand it, I truly mean that. He sees no reason for it and it shocks him that people could even consider these unkind gestures.
The kids who he calls “popular,” although I am not sure he grasps the true definition of the word, are the kids who are loud and boastful. They brag. They push and shove and they have no awareness of people around them. They bump into you. These kids want to be noticed and not always for things they have accomplished and should be proud of. To him, these kids want to stand in the spotlight no matter what. He just wants to do his own thing- no stage or spotlight needed.
You don't like what he likes, so what. You're really short, he is average. You play baseball and he does Brazilian Jiujitsu. Macaroni and cheese is your favorite dish and his is beer butt chicken. Eleven years old and still can't swim? Doesn't matter. My firefly likes you for who you are. The real you, not the “I like him because he always wears Under Armour” you.
Just like everyone else, he wants and needs praise and validation. Tell him he has a cool shirt on and it will make him feel good. He just doesn't have to have the praise from everyone. Congratulate him on doing well on his science project, he feels awesome. Even give him a ribbon because it won a contest, great, but don't make him go in front of everyone to receive it. For him and his pack, in his circle of trust, knowing is enough.
My firefly says he doesn't want to be noticed. In his mind, being noticed means having to get in front of a crowd and sing, dance, or perform in some manner. It means you get straight A's, can sink a three and are really tall (you know, like 5'3” at the age of 11). If you are noticed, then someone might see the things he doesn't want you to see. That he is different.
My firefly is different. I explain to him that his being different is what makes him so wonderful. We are all different. At 11, this kind of comment is seen as something a Mom has to say. To him his differences are a bad thing, to us they are his uniquenesses. They are why we love him so much. He wants to hide those differences. My firefly is hiding in the dark, his light blipping on and off. Almost as if he is the child running barefoot through the dewy evening grass to catch that firefly. Holding himself, the firefly, stifling his own light, not realizing the beauty of its' luminosity. Waiting for reasons, unknown to us, to release that light and see it with his own eyes. But only when he is ready.
I and so many others see his bright light. It is steady and dependable. His light illuminates from within, deep within his soul, his kindness, curiosity, and authenticity radiating outward. Fireflies sometimes are hard to find. You see their light and then it's gone, flickering. Is it enough to catch your eye?
The butterflies. Let them spread their wings. Praise them for their beauty, but also for their hard work. Butterflies can brighten our day with their mere presence, but don't forget the beauty and mysteriousness of fireflies. A firefly's light brightens even the darkest nights. Let them know that you see the radiance of their light, no matter the time of day, no matter the number of butterflies that are around, and their light will always shine bright. There is room for both butterflies and fireflies in our lives.