I let my son wear his turtle shell the other day. In public.
Yes, I admit it. I’m that mom.
The one who lets her daughter out of the house with a boot on one foot and a sandal on the other.
The one who watched her child climb the school bus steps and realized too late that those little pink shorts were on backward.
The one who shrugs at mismatched skirts and leggings, and grins at the feather boa and unicorn rain boots for the grocery store.
The mom who says yes to sporting the turtle shell at the park to look at trains and get some strawberry ice cream.
I frequently run out of the house (running because I’m always late) with no make-up, wet hair in a messy bun, and a high probability that I’m wearing one of my husband’s shirts because his drawer was closer than mine.
Sometimes I can put myself together – makeup, dry hair, earrings – but oftentimes I don’t.
And I love that. I love that I can do that and be ok with it. I love that I can laugh at the turtle shell instead of being embarrassed or apologetic about it.
Because it wasn’t always like that.
When I was in high school I was horribly self-conscious about the way I looked. I worried about my hair, my skin, my clothes, my shoes…you name it, I worried about it. Not only was I obsessed about how I looked, but I spent way too much time thinking about how others looked.
Not in a disdainful way, but in a comparison way. In a, how do I measure up to everyone else, way.
Is this the right color denim? Is embroidery on tank tops fashionable? A knot in the tee-shirt or no knot? Are my bangs poofy enough? (It was the 90s, don’t judge).
When someone would ask me about how I did on a science project the week before, I would usually be able to tell them more about what I and my lab partner wore that day than about the actual project.
I cared about the image I was presenting and whether it stacked up to the image I thought other people were presenting.
That hyper-focus on appearance calmed down a bit during college – after all, EVERYONE looked a little sloppy in college – but it started clicking back up once I graduated and got a job in the real world. Only then, it expanded. Not only did I spend time thinking about clothes, I also spent it thinking about furniture. And backyard seating. And countertop material.
What will my friends think when they come over and see this mismatched, hand-me-down furniture? How does my house compare with my co-worker’s? Shiplap or no shiplap? (Just kidding, Chip and Joanna weren’t a thing yet).
Now, I’m not trying to say that trying to make a good impression, or that dressing to make yourself feel good is a bad thing. After all, I enjoy a new outfit and some pretty throw pillows as much as the next gal.
However, constantly focusing on that stuff above other things wasn’t very healthy for me.
The comparison game never is.
Then one day, as I was getting my first baby girl ready for church, I found myself wondering about my outfit choice for her.
Did I put her in this same pink onesie for church last Sunday? Will all the other girl babies be wearing dresses instead of onesies? She hates shoes, but should she wear them?
As I listened to myself with some horror at that moment, I realized I didn’t want to be that mom. I didn’t want to put the color of my kid’s shirt and the fanciness of her shoes over her comfort. I didn’t want to be more concerned with what she should be wearing than with her health and happiness. I didn’t want to be the mom that could tell you what we wore to church last week but couldn’t tell you what the sermon was about.
So little by little, my kids have helped me shed that skin. They’ve helped me find the fun in the chaos of badly sprung furniture and finger painted artwork. They’ve helped me see the personality in mismatched shoes and silly hoodies.
They’ve helped me relax what I think I should look like into who I know I should be.
So while I still feel a little bad about the backward shorts to school one day, I’ll never feel bad about the turtle shell.
Sandra Samoska is a writer with a love for Jesus and a love for family. When she's not chasing around her four kids and doing all the things, you can find her writing about the ways God shows up in our every day lives.