Today, I wear a Mother's Day gift from my sweet girl. Like many such gifts, its value is not in the materials themselves, but in the pride and love in which they were fashioned. I don't think I'll ever forget the look of excitement on her face as she told me about making the necklace, and the brief bit of concern that she wasn't supposed to tell me the secret, but "Oh, if you really want me to, I'll tell you" and then she was off in a flurry of words and gestures and detailed instructions of how she had shaped the clay and added the ribbon and bead. She couldn't wait for me to see it. And neither could I. She was so proud to hand it to me and explained, "I put my thumbprint on it" and I felt the groove with my own thumb and told her that we would always be connected as I could touch my thumb to hers whenever I missed her.
My favorite part, though, is that she called it her "fumprint". In her self-consciousness, she would hate for me to point that out, so I had to work hard not to smile at the cuteness. She has always been a verbal and vocal child, very precocious and advanced for her age, so I hang on tightly to these reminders of how little she actually is. She has lost so many of her former mispronunciations as she has grown, and she has alternately created and dropped her own made up words and sounds to express herself. Now I can understand why my mom loves to remind me of how I used to call construction paper "instruction paper". For parents there is a sweetness in seeing the imperfections, a reminder that there is still so much time to learn and so much to embrace in the reality of how things really are right now. This gift and her words are a reminder not to rush into the future, but to slow down a moment and put my fumprint against hers and try not to be shocked that the sizes are not so very different as they once were.
Maryn and I are made from the same mold, it seems. We both struggle with perfectionistic tendencies and are crushed to think we have failed at something. But I'm reminded that sometimes our strengths and weaknesses are different sides of the same coin. Although she is very verbose, when she is feeling intense emotions, it is difficult for her to find the words. She will yell and grunt and point no matter how many times we remind her to "use her words". Although I've developed other tools in my many years of experience, my tendency to withdraw or be passive-aggressive is not helpful either. But we are both quick to pick up on how others are feeling and to show empathy and compassion for them. In the same way, we are disappointed when the reality of life doesn't match up with the picture we've created in our head. But that imagination helps us to dream new things and work to make them happen.
I like to think that this is how God looks at us. Not as a mess of failures that need to be corrected, but that the Holy One is gently smiling in love at our offered gifts, imperfect as they are. God sees a child, created in the Father's divine image, enough as she is, and yet with so much potential for continued growth. So I will hold on to this fumprint as a reminder of my girl that is so like me and so loves me in spite of my failures and whom I remind every day that I will always love her, too, no matter what.