Last spring I was rocking Dawson to sleep. I could hear Levi and Nena playing dress-up in the living room. Nena was torn between princess and horse. Levi was trying to wriggle into the cowboy costume.
I could hear him say, “No, don’t be a princess, I want you to be a horse.” If you know Nena, you might assume that she wasn’t on board with being told what to do. You would assume correctly. End scene with me coming out to tell Levi he couldn’t choose what other people wanted to be.
I understand what his goal was. If she is a horse he can be a cowboy. A cowboy needs a horse! Otherwise, he’s just dressed up and looking pretty like an extra from a Dolly Parton video.
If you know me – and the brain fuel of chocolate-covered-coffee-beans I consume – you might assume I would over-analyze this conversation. You would assume correctly.
He wanted her to play a certain role, so he could play the role he wanted. How true this is for my own life. Maybe you feel the same? If you are this, I can be that.
It’s about my own heart. It’s about feeling uncomfortable with being my true self without the crutch or justification of ‘well, of course I am a cowboy, I have a horse’.
It’s also about putting others into little categories. It restricts who they are and their place in our life. We can get uncomfortable when they want to try on the gorilla costume, or go back to the wizard outfit. We want them to stay a horse and not change. Not only so that we can be a cowboy, but so that we can always treat them like a horse. We need everyone playing their roles. Then we can remain the safest version of ourselves and never have to flex, bend or break as we love other people.
Since I started learning the Enneagram (weird, I’m talking about the Enneagram again!), I wouldn’t have seen the roles I impose on myself. The costumes, the personas I wear as a shell when I’m not comfortable with my own messy self.
Cowboys need horses. Heroes need distressed persons. Victims need villians. Princesses need princes, or frogs, or fairy godmothers, or whatever.
As I saw my son trying to set the scene of characters, I can see myself do the same with those around me. All because my own ‘identity’ is being shaken. Now when I can feel myself wrestling with wanting to change another person I start to ask, what costume am I trying to put on myself and them?
Underneath whatever facade I wear, there is only one identity that remains. . . Dear Child. Forgiven. Redeemed. Loved. Enough. My identity cannot be immersed in those around me. I can release them of that and let them wear all they wish to – as they find out what they want to be.
Maybe I can help my kids realize this a few decades earlier than it took their mom. Because I do want them to recklessly rip apart that costume trunk trying on everything. I want them to laugh in the mirror alongside their friends doing the same. I want them to know that no matter what they are wearing – that underneath all of it – they are dear, forgiven, redeemed, loved and always enough.
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