She’s absolutely gorgeous, in my personal and biased opinion.
Most of the time I feel totally unequipped in raising my five-year-old daughter to become a confident and secure woman with a positive body image, especially in today’s world. “Complex” doesn’t even begin to cover it.
(Understatement of the year, people.)
In fact, she came home from summer day camp last year, weeks after her fifth birthday, declaring, “Mama, I’m fat.” (Parroting words she heard an older girl say, no doubt). I stumbled over an answer in that moment, feeling completely horrified and unprepared, with a side of rage for the terrible words that someone had put into her innocent head.
It was inevitable, though, really. Now – it’s my job to figure out how to make my message sink in deepest.
Occasional comments and questions have come up over the last while, and I’ve done my best to inspire confidence through honest/empowering/realistic answers.
Raising a confident daughter is not for the faint of heart, I’m discovering, but this morning I had a bit of a lightbulb realization: when it comes to how my daughter feels about her body, I matter the most. Yes, when it comes to how my daughter perceives herself, what matters most is how I, her mama, talk about myself.
It’s pretty obvious, but I think sometimes we forget: in a world with conflicting messages in abundance, you, her mother, are her nearest and dearest object lesson.
This moment of clarity came while we were stealing a quick snuggle on the stair landing before school this morning, while attending to ponytails, matching-sock-finding, and barrettes for that one little wisp of hair that always fall onto her forehead.
She’s a darling – a very affectionate and loving child when she feels close to you. I cradled her in my arms and kissed her face. “I need to sit up to tell you something,” she said, with a serious look on her face. “Ok,” I said.
“I really like how your face looks,” she said to me with wide eyes and childlike earnestness.
She smiled and her eyes crinkled up at the edges just like mine do.
For a beat I heard nothing but the whoosh of my inhale and exhale. She had no idea the impact of her words because she was merely speaking the truth as she saw it, as children do.
I didn’t feel particularly beautiful at the moment. I had showered, but had on zero makeup. I had tired eyes with dark circles underneath from a night of poor sleep. My sinuses were a bit puffy from my stuffed up nose, and I’m pretty sure I had a nice coffee/morning breath combo.
I stumbled through some kind of answer, declaring that her face was, indeed, also one of my most favorite things in the world, and saying thank-you for the sweet words. Multiple kisses and tight hugs were involved.
She skipped off to don coat, boots, and backpack to head out the door with Daddy and her brothers, and I was left to ponder.
What if I had disagreed? What if I had brushed it off? If I had said, “Oh, this tired-looking old face?!…” and pointed out my various flaws to her, justifying why I was certainly not beautiful or lovely to look at? What if I had minimized her words?
Well then it would have been a prime example of self-dissatisfaction, and it seems to me that there are enough of those narratives in the world already.
So I’ll agree with her ’til the cows come home that I’m beautiful as I am, that my face is indeed lovely – especially when I’m smiling or laughing and my eyes are all crinkled up and spilling out with love.
I’ll agree, and I’ll affirm the same in her.
And we’ll go through life together, declaring our unfiltered, raw loveliness in defiance of the magazine-pretty world that would have us do otherwise. I’ll lead the way.
I won’t just tell her what it means to love yourself.
I’ll show her.