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.
As an African American woman with many struggles because of the color of my skin…I thank you for this story because we ( some of Us) don’t instill in our daughters that they are in fact beautiful. We are too busy trying to protect them from the discrimination, challenges and hurt in the world towards them. We also don’t accept compliments easily. I started a Christian book club and it was geared towards women who I see suffering in silence. I know God allowed me to read this story so I could share it with them and they can pass it on to their daughters.
Glad it resonated! <3
I had one of those gasp moments last Friday after gymnastics with my 7 year old. On the way out to the car she told me gymnastics would make her skinnier. It took me a moment but I just told her that it would make her body stronger and that it was important that she enjoyed it. I hope that was good enough.
It’s so hard in the moment to think of a quick answer! I think it sounds like you did a great job. 🙂
Wow! Powerful Truth!! I cried while reading this.. As I sit nursing my infant daughter. Most days I’m scared stiff by what faces my precious little beauty in this big “make you feel ugly” world! And though I know whole-heartedly that it is my confidence and esteem that will provide the most powerful example for her… Your example is so very true – sometime between now and the very near future I need to learn how to take a compliment regardless of how old, ugly, tired & tattered I may be feeling!
Thanks for this today – this was something I needed to read
This is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing. I have two daughters, and I’ve been struggling more so with my oldest one with this very thing. I never gave much thought that my perceptions of myself matter so much to her. She tells me all the time that I don’t need to wear make-up because I’m pretty without it. I’m going to start listening and responding differently now.
This is so precious and made me teary eyed..lol! Thanks for sharing. My daughter is 2 and this makes good sense. 🙂
I have had similar experiences with my oldest son, who is very self conscious of his appearance. We have had a lot of talks about God loving him no matter the length of his hair, whether his pajama shirt matches his pj pants, etc.
I want to cultivate a healthy desire in him to look his best without it becoming an idol to him.
Oh wow, I can’t believe your daughter heard those words at such a young age! My oldest daughter is getting ready to turn 3 and I know she doesn’t have a clue what “fat” even means. Like you said, it is inevitable that it will happen though. This is such a great lesson for me to think about now, and really practice before my girls are exposed to the thoughts of our perfection-obsessed culture.
P.S. Your daughter is pretty lucky to have you for a mama <3
Mindy!! You are too sweet. Thanks for your kind P.S. 🙂
As a mom of three girls, this really resonated with me. It’s such a hard world to instill confidence in girls…especially as mine are nearing teenage years!
Oh man – I imagine it only gets tougher as they get older. I’ll be looking to moms like you, one stage ahead of me, as I find my way in this. Thanks for commenting. 🙂
Ha, ha! I hope I have some wisdom by then…it’s slow in coming right now. 🙂
Well written, well done and your Mama has always known you’re both beautiful too!
Thanks, Mom. 🙂 Love you!
Beautiful words Beth! And very true!
Thanks Stephanie! I’m glad my jumbled thoughts actually made sense. 🙂
They definitely did….and I wouldn’t call them jumbled!