“What’s your favorite insect?” my seven-year-old daughter asked as we took an evening walk on the first night of her spring vacation. “You can’t pick butterfly. Everyone picks the butterfly,” she quickly added before I had a chance to respond.
“Hmmmm,” I thought out loud. “I guess mine would have to be a ladybug,” I finally answered.
“Mine’s a firefly. I love the firefly,” she said wistfully.
We kept walking. Talking. Enjoying the rare treat of alone time—just my younger daughter and me.
“Am I okay? I mean, am I fine?” she asked looking down at herself. “Sometimes I feel different.”
I immediately stopped walking and searched her face. Without saying what she meant, I knew; I just knew.
I bent down and spoke from a painful memory tucked away since second grade. “When I was your age. I felt different too. I felt uncomfortable, self conscious. One boy said really cruel things about the way I looked. He said I didn’t belong. His words hurt me for a long, long time,” I admitted.
As she looked at me sadly, her previous words echoed in my head. “Everyone picks the butterfly,” she’d pointed out a moment ago.
I placed my hands on her sturdy little shoulders as if somehow this could make her feel my words right down to the bone. “I want you to know something. You can always talk to me when you feel different or uncomfortable. I will never laugh. I will never judge you or tell you it’s no big deal. I will never brush away your feelings because I understand. I remember how it hurts. And some times you just need someone to understand that hurt.”
“I love the firefly,” she had said a moment ago. I then realized I had something she could hold on to.
“You mentioned that you love the firefly,” I reminded her. “Well, I think you’re a lot like a firefly. You know why?” I asked.
The worry on her face lifted. She looked at me hopefully. “Why, Mama?”