I squirmed with excitement in the back seat as my mom drove me to Allie S.s’ birthday party. A teal beach towel lay on my lap; Allie wanted to do a beach towel gift exchange instead of presents. Prettier ones had caught my eye at Wal-Mart, but the striped one was on sale, so we bought it.
It was the summer of ’05, and I hadn’t experienced many negative emotions in my seven-year life span. That changed in just two short hours.
We pulled into All-Star Pizza’s parking lot in Texas. I hopped out of the car and waved bye-bye to mom; she smiled, and I skipped inside. In addition to the pizza restaurant, the massive building had a dodge ball court with narrow passages around the perimeter. Perfect for hide-and-seek, I thought excitedly. I laid my towel down at the birthday table with all the others and quickly found my best friend, Alyssa.
First, we organized a ruthless game of dodge ball with the other girls. Once we were breathless from that, we retreated to the secret passages to talk. We confessed our seven-year-old crushes (Jake M. made it on everybody’s list) and dashed around for hide and seek.
Finally, Allie’s mom called us back for cake. I sprinted out and took a seat while adults passed out fluffy cake with delicate whipped frosting. Then it was time for the towel exchange.
The adults randomly gave each of us a towel from the pile. Then, we could make one exchange. Allie got my teal one after the swap, and she looked disgusted with it. I saw her try to pass it off on someone else. Holding back tears, I said, “I’ll take it.” She ended up with a pretty orange and pink one that night.
Even at 7 years old, I craved acceptance. So when Daddy came to pick me up, I cried in his truck all the way home.
Mom, of course, asked what happened.
“She didn’t like my towel, Mommy,” I said brokenly.
Mom kind of chuckled lightly, and then noticed that I really was hurt.
“Makenna,” she said softly, “you have to treat people’s words and actions toward you as either rocks or rubber duckies.”
She pantomimed a little fish tank with her hands.
“You take in all this from other people. You sift through it. Then, if it’s good and biblical, you let it float like a ducky—it gets to stay in your mind. If it’s wrong and hurtful, you have to let it sink to the bottom and forget about it.”
She fanned out three dollar bills on the table.
“You actually saved us money by getting the towel on sale, so you get these three dollars.”
“Really!?” I exclaimed, all hurt slowly fading.
As I look back, a decade later and 2000 miles away, the situation seems silly.
But the advice still works.
Even now, I struggle with fear of rejection; I worry that people won’t like my personality or appearance. However, my mom’s advice comes back to me often. It helps me by framing my perspective on what should float and what needs to sink.
Rubber duckies get played with, while rocks get shipped off to God for Him to handle.
For more on my mom’s perspective on this, read her post over on The Cheerio Trail:
“The day my PARENTING was GRADED.”