A few days ago, I was browsing a kids’ clothing website, a pastime I enjoy ever so much! Scrolling through pages of adorable outfits and dresses, I had an immediate visceral reaction to a t-shirt. Yes, I was upset by a child’s t-shirt, angered even. A 7 year old girl modeled this garment with the slogan “I Literally Don’t Care” emblazoned across it. No, I’m not ranting about the popularized misuse of the word “literally.” I was affronted by the sentiment behind the statement. It embodies the very core of what I don’t want in my child. Rarely have I ever felt so strongly about a piece of clothing! I have always been a bit old fashioned in my girls’ clothing choices. I lean towards smocked dresses rather than animal prints. Those of us who shop for little girls have surely seen loads of tees sporting words like “spoiled, ” “diva,” “princess,” and even “brat.” As a rule, I’ve shied away from those types of words. I know that the majority of adults look at those words on t-shirts and see the humor in it. My concern is that the child wearing it may not have sophisticated enough of a sense of humor to get that these aren’t necessarily desirable traits. I’ll never forget Lily’s reaction to her first Mickey Mouse shirt. Mickey has been her main man since she was at least 18 months old. I slipped that shirt on her 2 year old self, and she said, “I’m Mickey!” Her innocent statement has shaped my clothing choices for them ever since!
A few months ago, we were playing at our neighbor’s house. Karl is our best buddy, and the girls jump at the chance to play at his house. When it was time to pick up and go home, Lily threw a full out fit. It was pretty unusual for her to get that worked up, even though she’s never eager to leave. When I turned to Avery and said she needed to start picking up the toys, she looked at me and said, “I don’t care.” In that quiet, scary-mommy voice, I informed her that her statement was far more upsetting to me than the fit Lily was throwing. Once we were in our own home and calmed down, I explained to her that those words hurt me. Those words from her mouth hurt me, because I care so very much for her. While I want their childhood to be free of adult worries, I want them to care. I want to raise people who care deeply. I understand that one person’s sphere of control is limited; however, I want to impress upon my children that we care. If one day, when they’re 20 year olds, and they’re waitresses at Torchy’s Tacos, and when two moms with three little kids ask for some to go containers, I want them to care enough to bring them some boxes rather than apathetically point to some sheets of tin foil on the other side of the restaurant next to the drink station. That’s all I’m saying! They don’t have to lie awake at night stressing out about the ills of the world, but I’d sure hope they care about the welfare of others.
Maybe a t-shirt a kid wears when she’s 7 makes no impact on whom she is when she’s 27. All I know is, for the time that I’m the most influential person over my girls’ lives, I can’t help but reflect upon the words that impact them. In the 22nd chapter of the book of Matthew, Jesus is asked which of all the commandments in the Law is the greatest. He answers:
“‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22 : 37-40
So the first one, I totally get it. Sure, we should definitely strive for loving God like that, even though we can’t possibly achieve it. For some reason, the whole idea of loving my neighbor as myself is way tougher. Believe me, I absolutely love my neighbors. I have the best neighbors in the history of neighbors, but do I love them as much as I love myself? Better yet, do I love them as much as I love Avery and Lily? To make the order even taller, I don’t think Jesus even meant specifically the people who reside next door. I’m pretty sure he was talking about loving all of humanity. Do I love Syrian refugees as much as myself? Nope. Do I love those among our population who intentionally strike fear into the hearts of innocents? Nope. I can honestly say I’ll never get there; however, that’s the measuring stick Jesus is holding up. I need to try, at the very least. I need to care. I need to teach my beloved daughters to care, and I just don’t think putting them in a t-shirt that says “I Literally Don’t Care” is going to help us get there.