22 Jan 2016

Why I Showed My Kids All My One Star Book Reviews

“You don’t get it mom. Kids can be cruel.”

It’s what my 8 year old son told me from the bathtub where I was treating his head for lice. His eyes were red from all the crying after he saw his new buzz cut for the first time.

We’d shorn him. Because of the lice.

I thought he looked handsome.

But without all that thick hair his eyes stood bleakly out in his face as he sat in the tub and told me how worried he was about being teased.

“Kids can be cruel, mom.”

We’re only half way through being the new kids at a new school in a new neighborhood.

And slowly we’re making friends and settling in. But there’s still the uncertainty that hangs around the edges – the big, “But what will they say? What will they think of me?” The question that hovers around the edges of the school day or the basketball practice or Sunday school.

Maybe it has nothing to do with being new. Maybe that’s the inevitable question that comes with the insecurity of being human. This worry about what other people will think.

But the lice had to go and we still weren’t winning after three rounds of all the treatments and washing and purging.

So we buzzed Micah. All of it. He has thick, gorgeous hair. We buzzed it all off at the kitchen counter and he was fine with it. He was fascinated by the falling hair and shook himself off like a shaggy dog when we were done. Then he walked into the bathroom and looked at himself in the mirror.

I watched it happen. How his face collapsed and the tears started and his cheeks burned so bright with shock and embarrassment. It was not what he was expecting. He slammed the door.

“But mom, kids can be really cruel.”

My heart ached for him. I offered to drive him in the morning so he’d have a whole day of school under his belt before the bus ride home.

When he walked in the school door he was wearing his hoodie.

He was still wearing it when he walked back in the front door at home.

His teacher liked his hair, he said. Her son has always wanted a buzz cut.

One girl liked it and plenty of others told him it looked dumb. And as I stood there hugging him and rubbing his soft, fuzzball scalp I told him that that was the thing about life. You will never have everyone like what you do or make or create or write or draw or buzz.

Like ever

And then I pulled up my Amazon book reviews.

He and his brother laughed nervously as I read them all the one star reviews. They hugged me and petted my arm and were so surprised when I laughed and told them it didn’t matter.

Why mom?

Because, sons, I like my book. I LOVE it and I know you guys love it and dad loves it and I know that Jesus loves it because He’s the one who gave it to me. Those are the opinions that matter.

And I watched the idea dawn across Micah’s face that maybe his opinion really was the most important one when it came to his own haircut.

It would be so much more convenient if everyone agreed with us all the time, wouldn’t it? Convenient, less stressful, but likely not better. We need push back and input and loving, tender feedback from the people who have our backs.

As for the rest of it – being human means there are going to be other humans who disagree or flat out dislike the things we love, the things we stand for. You know what – they’re allowed. 

(Disagreeing yes. Bullying, no. I’m talking here about the regular, kid-stuff where insecure kids don’t respond politely to changes in their peers. Bullying, well, that would be a completely different post. And thankfully that hasn’t been the case when it comes to Micah’s hair.)

And figuring out how we’ll respond to people who disagree with us is such an important part of figuring out how to make sense of this world and our place in it.

It doesn’t have to change who we are. It doesn’t have to make us go invisible. It doesn’t have to make us hide our heads or our gifts. It simply means that they don’t see the world the same way we do. Some are more graceless than others in how they point that out. Some have the tact of second graders.

But we still get to choose how we will respond.

Some days I choose laughter. Some days ice cream. Some days a hot bath and a binge marathon of my favorite shows (I’m looking at you, Grinder). Some days I’m like Micah and I cry a lot first. But I’m learning to look myself in the mirror and recognize that thing that someone else doesn’t like. That thing that God gave me.

Some days I still wear a hoodie over it.

But on the best days, I forget completely what others think, I forget the hoodie and the awkwardness because I’m just doing the thing. Like my kid – it’s been days since he thought of his hair because he’s too busy making plans for the next adventure. Too busy planning that snow fort, that perfect sled ride, that game of stuffed animal tag.

Until he captures a glimpse of himself in the mirror, and then, then I’ve seen him wink.



{ Leave a Comment }
  1. 1

    Because I’ll be wading these waters soon and am terrified of one-star reviews, I had to go read yours. And what a reminder they are that no, everyone isn’t going to agree with us all the time. Everyone isn’t going to get the message we’re offering. Everyone isn’t going to like it (I love that one woman gave you one star bc she’s not religious herself–it’s pretty blatant this is a Christ-centered book from the get-go so I’m not sure why she was surprised) and for some reason, people are going to be personally hurt you didn’t give exactly what they wanted. Which means maybe the problem lies with them… and not with me? I LOVE that you used this as a teaching too. That’s the mothering advice we love from you, LJ. Lessons in all the mess. Glory too.

    • 2

      Exactly. It’s impossible to control what other people take from our art. Our job is to create it and then to give it away. We don’t get to boss it around after that :) Much like our own kids, our books will make their own way in the world and people will have opinions about them we can’t control.

      Mostly those negative reviews tell me – well done, Lisa-Jo, you put yourself out there. And what you wrote impacted people in such a way that they were motivated to push back. Maybe they misunderstood or misinterpreted you. That’s OK. It’s simply evidence that you did the thing, you did the work, you wrote the words, you put it out there.

      Every single one of those one star reviews tells me that I’m an author. And at the end of the day, that’s a good thing :)

  2. 3

    Thank you Lisa Jo
    Dealing with a similar issue with my middle 15 year old not getting into woman chamber choir… She’sfeeling like she isn’t good enough.. & I just hate seeing her so upset…& nothing right now can console her…so I pray..& she eats ice cream & hopefully later she will listen

  3. 4

    Lisa Jo, I, too, went and read your reviews. You see, I love your book so much that I buy it for each new mom as part of her baby shower gift. Your book gave me permission to feel so many emotions I had felt guilty for as a mom. You gave me permission to have pizza every Friday for my family for dinner, and not feel guilty for taking time for myself. You were the only author I showed up early to see speak at She Speaks because I believe in your honesty and your beautiful writing. Remember: some say Ann Voskamp is “too wordy, too frilly.” Right. It’s called art. Your book is artistic and beautiful, and I cherish it. Take care of yourself and stand tall…
    Your friend,
    Taylor Arthur

    • 5

      Goodness, that’s so lovely. Thank you thank you! I’ll be sure and show the kids this comment too – because writing means that you’ve put yourself out there – and some people will resonate with what you say and some won’t. Both make you an author, both are a reminder that you did it, you showed up, you offered yourself and your words and your story. So thank you thank you for this encouragement – it’s the reason we keep showing up. Because there will always be people that need our words and they are the ones, after all, that we write for.

  4. 6

    Thank you thank you. As I was told the other day by a person that she heard some kids say I’m “the mean teacher.” (sorry, so sorry middle schoolers who I hold accountable). There are so many ways to respond. I chose ice cream and showing up the next day with a smile on my face.

  5. 8

    Awesome! I just left you a 5 star review on Amazon because I realized I owe you one! Thanks for inspiring me.

  6. 10

    Thank you so much!!! I can’t count how many times I have not put myself out there for fear of what others think. Just what I needed to hear today. I am reminded of this quotation: “Live in the world as if God and your soul only were in it.” – St. John of the Cross

    Also where did you get that lovely watercolour “She is clothed with dignity…” art work? I would love to find one.

    P.S. I can’t wait to read your book. They have it as an ebook at my local library. Hugs!

  7. 11

    So sorry to hear about your battle with lice. We recently went through a *thankfully* mild round of it. Hopefully you’re past it for now and forever, but if they do come back, our pediatrician recommended using a Cetaphil treatment (which you can google). And the school nurse suggested a good vacuuming and spraying of the carpets, couches and even car seats – didn’t need to do this in the end though since we had to get our house heat treated for bed bugs at the same time. :/
    And I’m so grateful God encouraged you to write “Surprised by Motherhood.” I read it at the very time when I needed encouragement and perspective on being a mother.

  8. 12

    Lisa-Jo, your post pierced my heart because I’m going through a career change, and in my new career, I have so much more opportunity to create and put myself out there and be known and seen…by so many. It really is terrifying. And it is hard not to measure my worth and success by others’ reactions to my work. Your post normalized my anxiety and the way I obsessively survey the reactions of others. But it also offered me an alternative – to accept that although not everyone sees the world the way I do, my perspective and art can still have profound worth. And just like you told Micah, when we have a few trusted loving people who believe in us, that can make all the difference.

  9. 13

    Quite often, I think about how flat out blessed your kids are to have you as their mama. This post further proves my point.

    Love it, love you. xoxo

  10. 14

    This is such a good post. Thank you for sharing. I am going to share this with my kids.

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