Alex took a spill last week and has been carefully inspecting his scrapes, turned scabs, for the past several days. Yesterday, he pointed out that the scab itself is peeling back, but that the skin beneath is still bumpy.
I showed him my own elbow, marked with a small haphazard pattern of white lines, a fall on the patio surrounding a pool at a campground when I was ten or eleven. I remember the feeling of the pebbly texture of the patio, the painful cuts and tears it made as I scraped my skin against it. I remember crying, hydrogen peroxide, bandages, and then, I remember being like Alex, watching my body heal.
It lasts forever? he asked, squinting at my elbow.
Some scars last forever. They don’t hurt anymore, they just, stay. It’s sort of a part of who I am now. I shrugged. You can bet I never ran around a pool again though.
He ran off to grab his backpack and our conversation ended. Only, today, when I looked down at the back of my hand and saw another scar, this one from our puppy when she was still brand-new-to-us. The strip of skin is still a little pink, all these months later, and I know already that it’s a scar that is not going to ever fade away. It’s another moment of life, etched on my skin forever.
It’s amazing how we carry with us all that has made us. Every tiny moment has the chance to be forever engraved, on our skin or on our hearts. Sometimes we learn (no more running around the pool), and other times, it’s just a scrape from a puppy that you got in your thirties. Oh, bummer. Moving on.
But it does have me thinking of all of the scars that we can’t see, the baggage we carry with us, due to our own mistakes or from friendships or relationships. Passing words that can’t be taken back. Indiscreet moments in adolescence can haunt us twenty, thirty years later. How amazingly powerful our past can be, if we let it. If we often peek beneath our bandages or look for the white marks, the jagged little etchings carved on our souls.
And more so, I realize how powerful and important the decisions that we help our children make, truly are. We tell our kids, don’t run around the pool! to protect their skin should they slip, or to save them from falling in over their heads.
But how often do we remind them to protect their hearts or to choose wisely the friends that they let in close?
The scars we can’t see, they linger longer and deeper and they shape who we are. How important it is to let our children know to choose wisely. To use discernment. To have patience. That what is SO, SO important right now at the age of 7, 10, 15, 19, 21, and so on, might not be quite so important (or even a desired memory) at the age of 33. (And that what is so important to ME, right now, might not be what’s so important to me ten years from now, or really, even ten days from now.)
Of course, there are certainly difficult experiences that make us better, stronger, more determined. And there are sad experiences that happen that we simply cannot avoid.
There are circumstances that scar you and shape you. I don’t want to protect my children from these. These are the stuff of this life, these are all that makes us.
And yes, scars are only reminders, not definers. None of us our defined by our past. The scars on my elbow remind me my body is fragile, but heals. I have fallen, but I have gotten back up.
Still, in this big lifetime, there are avoidable hurts and escape-able scars.
I want to be more conscious to remind my children that their decisions matter. How they treat one another matters. How they choose to obey, or disobey, matters. How they carry themselves, how they dress, how they respond to difficulty, how they guard their hearts and their relationships. It all matters and it could all leave a mark that they either will, or will not, want, when they’re all grown – scars that stay with them until they shuffle off this mortal coil, so to speak.
Of course, this is all too large of a conversation to have had over a bowl of Cheerios and a trip down to the bus stop. But it’s one that I am going to be listening for, keeping my heart ready with answers and questions to get Alex and Lila (and eventually Asher and Evaline) thinking of themselves as lifelong creations, not meant for just the here and now, but for forever.
While I’m at it, I’m going to remind myself, in my relationships with friends and family, as a wife and mother, to think of myself just the same.