“She’s her own bird, isn’t she?”
I nod, because I have learned that this is the path of least resistance.
She is crawling on the floor in a pink tutu, black tights and 3-sizes-too-big sneakers. Her hair is knotted in the back from yesterday’s ponytail and I can feel my eyes getting hot.
“Kate, come on hon. Let’s get going.” I turn away from her because I don’t want her to see my face getting red.
She makes a meowing noise and drags herself across the grocery store aisle to me.
I am tempted to tell the woman that she isn’t really her own bird, but rather her own cat. I decide she wouldn’t think it was funny.
I don’t really even know why I’m crying except to say that this was the tipping point in a hard week.
There’s something about this girl that inspires me, pushes me, melts me, and also…puts me right over the edge.
My dad says she’s just like me, actually. And I believe it’s true.
I decide to consult some books because I think they might have the answer that the $200 an hour doctors will and this way I can save time and money. The books say I need to practice breathing with her because she is a child who is prone to outbursts. I cut food dye, sugar, dairy, white flour, and anything outside of air and cardboard. I see some small changes but nothing that makes me feel like we are making great progress.
One day I read a chapter on helping kids who have problems controlling emotion and it says to teach them to squeeze their fists together as tightly as they can and then let go. It says they will feel relaxed and will be able to stop being so frustrated.
I talk to Kate about it and we practice. I tell her to imagine she is playing with her sisters and they won’t let her have the Barbie that still has all her limbs. I ask how that makes her feel and she says, “angry.”
I am tempted to tell her that I would be angry too, but I need to teach her about the fists.
I do, and she squeezes. She lets go.
“Do you feel better?” I ask.
She nods yes, but it was just a practice round so I’m not convinced.
Later that day we are at a friends house and I see her across the yard from the other kids. She is sitting on the wet grass with her eyes closed. After a moment I realize that she is squeezing her fists and crying quietly. I go to her, sit by her, whisper to her…
“Why, baby? Why are you crying?”
She is sweaty and has patches of green from the grass on her new shorts.
“I don’t want to be the one, momma.” She is looking faraway now and I don’t know how to reach her.
“Which one, Kate?”
“The one who has the hands that squeeze.”
I lose it. Sobbing, hugging, angry at myself, I realize that for months I have been reading, mulling, wondering, and all of it was because I don’t want her to be made fun of or left out.
I have asked her to be a fist-maker instead of a cat, and in doing so I have stolen a little of her voice.
I repent of the parts that were selfish. The parts that wanted hairbows and harmony and two legs walking in the store instead of paws.
Because the truth is, I love the paws. I always have.
I love her determination, her imagination, and the way she talks to herself when she thinks nobody is listening.
I don’t want her to be a wild child who is disrespectful, rude, or hurtful. I care about the way she speaks to me and others, and I will pick my battles when it comes to certain behaviors that I believe are wrong. But I can focus on those without getting off track and thinking I need to make her look like everyone else.
I have been guilty of this before, so I wanted to take this chance to apologize.
Not so much because I made that choice, because that is between me, her and the Lord.
Rather, I’m sorry if the kitty noises distract you from your shopping.
But I want her to remember me as the one who loved her for exactly who she was.
And right this minute, that means another load of laundry and grace as wide as aisle 6.
I love you, Katie-cat.
By: Angie Smith, Bring the RainLeave a Comment
Kristen Strong says
Angie, my mama heart needed to read this! Thank you…this post is a gift!
Mama to another “own bird” kiddo 🙂
Southern Gal says
Ooh, I needed this, too. Parenting is the hardest thing we’ll ever do, yet it’s the most rewarding. I’m learning each step of the way. Thank you for sharing. I’ve missed reading about your sweet girls.
Amy Hunt says
It’s so humbling to love our children Just. The. Way. They. Are.
I’m on my knees confessing my longing for Something Else, too, sometimes–something a little more *perfectly story tale-ish*. But, the God of the World has created our little ones and He is in them, and each day we see slivers of His glory poured out in the hearts of them–His children.
Rich blessings, Angie, as you continue to seek Him and find Him through the ones He’s blessed you with for this time…
Betty Draper says
Rich post, rich in humbleness, rich in mercy, rich in insight into the souls of our children….oh I would like to meet your little cat…i would meow with her…but then i am a grandma and i’ve been a monkey, a dog, a horse which are really popular with little girls.
There does come an age you are not embarrass by silly stages anymore especially when they let Grandma play too. Thank you for the sweet post, going to be with my grandchildren soon…one set of three lives in Papau New Guinea so we will have lots of ocean time..the other two live in California so we will do lots if McDonald time and parks. I’m going to be what ever animal they want me to be just because of your sweet post.
Cathy Canaceli says
Hi Angie! This is *tearful*. I love how you said in the end that you want to be remembered by her as someone who loved her for who she is. So sweet and brought tears to my eyes.
Lovely post! Thanks for sharing! And God bless your heart!
Sarah H says
Isn’t it so fantastic to be able to step back and see them (as much as we can anyways) how God created them instead of what we think they should be? I ran across something a few months ago that I had never pondered before about how God gives us our particular children and them their particular parents….it was no accident he purposefully matched us, how cool is that? We have 5 kiddo’s from 9 and younger, 4 girls and 1 boy. I’m always amazed at how different they all are yet woven from the same familial cloth, and how God works through them as well to mold me into who he wants me to be.
The other thought I ran across not too long ago was that we forget sometimes to extend grace and such to our kiddo’s and that the things that bother us the most are the things we struggle with ourselves and maybe in being so hard on them we are trying to “fix” things so they learn quicker than we did….really it’s the whole log/splinter biblical thing on a whole different level. It did make me take a step back and I have to pray all the time for guidance, especially with our girls who are all very stubborn, strong willed and independent in their own special ways…I don’t want to squash their spirit as I want to see what (hopefully) they will be able to do for God someday! Thanks for the wonderful thoughts!
Susan Gay Jeffries says
I was blessed with a precious daughter after two sons. I prayed that she wouldn’t be a spoiled fru-fru kind of girl that everything had to match.
Now she is 14, she is beautiful inside and out truly caring about her spiritual life. She matches sometimes usually on Sunday for mom, but is most comfortable in t-shirt and jeans. She is a little different from the other girls her age and sometimes it hurts me that she is not included, but I thank God that she is who He made her and I have to pray about not getting in HIS way of making her into who HE wants her to become. I thank Him for beautiful unique daughters that do not fit the mold and are their own birds. I say let’s let them fly!
Deb Martell says
Beautifully said 🙂
Absolutely beautiful Angie! Loved this.
I have 4 girls and this is my story too. I love that in “Grace Based Parenting” Dr. Kim el says “Grace makes room for differences”….
For cat noises
For drama queens
Girls singing loudly in Walmart
And all the things that drive ME crazy.
Grace makes room.
We are the body. Each of us useful in our own way. Why would we ever think putting our kids in a “box” [must be like…] is necessary?
God has a plan for everyone of us—kitties, birds, hot-heads & shy-sara’s. As parents, it’s up to us to guide our kids to their strengths/gifts.
But even better than helping reveal that gift….helping them to use it for HIS glory.
Great post. Reminding us to be tender and patient with our kids.
Angie, you’re a sweet mama. Katie is a blessed girl. 🙂
I would give my right arm for a meow-ing child in a tu-tu, on the floor in aisle 6. So as a “together” single gal who probably wears an intense expression in the grocery store, the problem is not EVER with your child. It’s more of a reflection to myself that I do not have your amazing gifts, and that I need to remain at-rest without them.
Marcy Holder says
You are one-amazing-lady! Your fresh perspective to the eternal battle of becoming was just what I needed this morning.
My eyes filled as I read about your little one. I, too, have a child with the hands that squeeze, or its equilavent. My sunny sonshine is about to celebrate his 18th birthday. He no longer pretends to be a kitty or a bunny, but nonetheless, he is uniquely unique. And so alone. His hearing loss seperates him from the world of teens who can hear. He does not hear their jokes, the teacher’s instructions, or greetings from family on the phone.
I have to tell myself, and so too to convince him, that without his hearing loss and his personality he would have not needed God. But that the Lord needed him. And I needed him.
I also have a Katie Kat. My parents will testify that she is just like me and an answer to every one of their laments to the Lord when I was a teenager. I find the behaviors that she demonstrates are usually the ones that I’m uncomfortable expressing because “that’s not what we do” but really need to say. Daily God reminds me that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” and the passion, determination, creativity and tender heart are actually instruments to be used for His glory and not to please people. Maybe people are uncomfortable with kitty cats in aisle 6 because they really need to express their inner kitty cat? 😉
Oh Angie – my heart needed to hear this, needed to be reminded how fearfully and wonderfully we are made. My sweet boy sounds just like Kate, right down to the kitty paws. I have cried and prayed and worried because he can be so difficult, but I realize I have not yet truly given him to God and allowed him to fit into his own God-designed mold. I get frustrated because I was NOT like that as a child. Thank you for having the courage to be transparent and love her just as she is. You have been such an encouragement to this mama today.
Elaine Pool says
This broke my heart – because I’ve been where you were, and where Kate was. It’s so hard to let them be who they are, when you “know” they won’t fit in as well. Kate has this spirit for a reason! I know it’s hard to watch, and won’t always be easy to deal with, but remember that one day, you’ll watch in amazement as she comes into her own.
Angie, I have a Kaity, much like your Kate. I have struggled the same. I have read this 3 times and read it to my husband and cried, and I’ve kissed her a bunch of extra times. Yes. And amen.
You just made me a braver mother. Thank you, and God bless you.
Angie, my own Katie, my Annie, was a cat back in 1983. She crawled and meowed and insisted that we call her kitty. She moved from that to calling her daddy a cat and was inconsolable when I wouldn’t buy cat food for him at the store. Then, she wanted a pink kitty. Not a pink stuffed kitty, but a real one. I made a pink cat costume for her for Halloween. That same year, the nursery at my church added an extra worker for choir practice because she was such a busy child. She made some adult choices in he teens and has lived with those adult consequences. Her journey has been very different than what I had hoped for her. But you know what? I’ve heard her tell that her Momma let her be a kitty. And she knows that I love her no matter what. And she has turned her life around in a wonderful way. Her walk is not my walk, but it is unique and her own. And the world is a brighter place when she flashes her million watt smile.
You sound like a wonderful mom!
I too have a sweetheart who is not at all like her siblings. She not only marches to the beat of her own drummer, but she wrote the music herself and would probably play all the instruments necessary! But what a blessing to our family! When she was little my mother told me I needed to get her under control before she controlled our entire family. I assured her God chose her for our family, and it was a great honor He chose us instead of another family. What an honor He trusted us enough with this amazing treasure! May we continue to love her and allow her to be the wonderful blessing she is to all around her.
Well, I wept as I read this because it hits my heart to the core. In fact, I was weeping two hours ago and praying as I washed the dishes asking God to give me the strength to help my daughter be who she is and to guide her the best I can. Her sensory processing disorder causes her such frustration, anger, outburst, and she struggles so to have friends. She is unique and imaginative and so very creative but she hates how different she is. It breaks my heart to see her struggle. I am thankful for your post and it reminds me to ALWAYS encourage her special way of doing things.
My boy is a monkey. If I had a nickel for every time someone said, “Wow, I wish I had that much energy!” (and those are the nice comments), I would be a very rich woman. It is incredibly hurtful that so many people, including close relatives, can’t see past the bouncing to the bright, funny child he is. But God makes sure that I do, and so far, that’s been enough.
thank you.. From a mom who has had a “puppy” for four years I needed to read this.
Michelle Gates says
Oh how I relate to your journey…
My 6 Yr old has Asperger’s syndrome, and with it, come many behaviors others label “quirky” or “abnormal”…
But, through God’s eyes, I’ve learned that these unique traits are what make my Baby Boy absolutely perfect!! How could I ever allow the judgement of human perspective, to make me question God’s masterpiece??
It is an ongoing battle, I’m not gonna lie. Because I am human, too & I do put too much stock in the opinions of others. BUT, with stories like the one you shared, I’m encouraged & reminded that God doesn’t make mistakes- our precious little angels are just that “PRECIOUS” & gifts from Heaven!!
Embrace your perfect little Katie-Cat!!
Thank you for sharing a piece of your beautiful journey…
I’m not even a mom, but this touched me, Angie. Not only will I remember to let my children (within the boundries of respectful) be who they were created to be, but I must also accept and embrace others who I may see as “cats” sometimes. Love.
I’ve been guilty of trying to change my daughter into someone she’s not, too. Thanks for the honest and real post! I love this blog.. I think I am going to make it part of my morning reading after my Bible time. The different posts are always so encouraging and uplifting, and such a great variety of topics!
Ashley Elizabeth says
I was the cat kid. Still am. I will forever bless my mother for allowing my brother and I to grow/live/thrive the ways she did. For the most part, my 5-star executive chef brother and I (a speechwriter) have done fairly well. We’re shrouded in love and know our parents gave us roots and wings. Hang in there, Angie, she’ll fly one day and be a beautiful grace.
I remember when my daughter painted this beautiful figurine, everything was perfect…in our eyes. We all ooh and awed over it, but she wasn’t done yet, she told us. She then proceeded to cover the entire figurine with bright pink pok-a-dots. Some 17 years later, she still loves pok-a-dots (even having some as a tattoo) and she always thinks me for letting her live outside the box.
Next time I see a “cat” in the store, I’ll just smile and think of you.
Food for my soul. My Sophia sounds so much like your Kate. As she continues to grow older (nearing 7 now) I find myself so nervous that others who just don’t get her will reject her, lable her, tease her, JUDGE ME!…. I have been struggling to find the right balance of training her up in love, respect, gentleness, etc… while still letting her fly and grow into the young girl God made her to be. I may re-read this one a few times. 🙂 Thank you for opening your Mama’s heart and sharing.
Thank you for sharing your story of “imperfect” kids.
I struggle with how my identity is tied to my children’s behaviours. Years ago, before I was even married, a lovely elderly women from my church taught me that children are not our possessions – God lends them to us for such a short time, and we do our best to care for and nurture them while they are with us, and then offer them back to Him as a gift.
I know God chose the perfect mama and daddy to raise your little Katie Kat.
God bless you!
Can you hear the “oof” and “ouch” coming from me through your computer? I have my own “Katie Cat.” Only he’s four years-old, all boy, and usually he’s pretending to be a train or fighter jet and he’s silly, silly, silly to the point that often drives me crazy…and I have been guilty of stripping that away because I don’t want to have “the weird kid” or because his silliness is interrupting my agenda.
Thanks for sharing this. There’s so much more room for me to practice extending grace to him, setting my own agenda aside, for being thankful for his four year-old silliness, and just loving him right where he’s at…train noises and all.
Fiona Harvey says
What a beautiful post. Your daughter sounds precious. My daughter used to be a cat a lot too, around the age of 3-4, but never in public. Now she is 11 and into dancing and horses and heffalumps, she keeps us laughing and on her toes. Sometimes her anger gets out of control and she will have tantrums, still. Can I encourage you to take a look at http://www.fed up.com.au ? We are looking into food intolerances lately and I am learning so much about how food affects my daughter’s behavior and my body, too. And it’s mostly not sugar, dairy, wheat, the common suspects, but natural chemicals (found in fruit, fruit juice and vegetables), and additives. Sounds crazy and unhealthy, but we are all better on this diet, my daughter is calmer and life is better. This diet seems to help so many children with so many different “problems”, pains and little quirks, and it is designed doctor ands and scientists at a big Australian hospital. http://www.sswahs.nsw.gov.au/rpa/allergy/default.htm
I am so encouraged by your honesty and love for your daughter. I look back now and miss those little paws at my place, sometimes! All the best!
Joy C says
Reading a book, which I had to lend to my friend before I was finished, called “Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child is More Intense, Perceptive, Persistent and Energetic” Highly recommend, if even for the first few chapters where the author discusses changing the labels to positive ones – spirited instead of difficult. She really gets it, even though the book is not Christian.
As a Katie Cat…. I have been where you daughter is…. I am so thankful for this post.
I wasn’t allowed to be “me.” And I am doing much much healing now that your daughter will not have to go through because you love her the way she is.
Thank you!!!!!!!!!!! I sit here in tears and read this knowing God is the God of redemption and forgiveness.
Sarah Bendel says
Angie- Thank you for sharing this. I have followed your blog for several years now and read your book back in May. (I cried with you the whole way through) You are such an inspiration to me. Your girls are watching you be the woman that the Lord designed you to be, what an awesome thing! I pray that my little girl will say the same thing- when she can talk! Congratulations on your new book, can’t wait to read it!
Sue S says
Angie, this is beautiful. One of the loveliest things you have ever written. I love when you “keep it real” and tell stories of your girls. And I have always loved Kate since she told the woman in the market she wanted to grow up and wear a ‘brawl’ and go to Bible study. She delights me!
Love this so much.