I've been thinking about Amanda King's words a lot in recent weeks. She writes of her struggle to find beauty in herself and to set a self-confident example for her children. This is my struggle, too. My daughter is the most beautiful creature I have ever known. Her green eyes turn me into goo. I'm enamored with her wild curls, her contagious laugh, and her perfect skin. When my daughter leaves the house to go to school every morning, she doesn't worry about how she looks. She is always cute as a button in her fashion boots, stylish dress, and sequined beret. No matter where we are, she walks confidently (often with one hand on her hip). It's more of a sashay, really.
What does she see when she looks at me? I'm not entirely sure, but I do know that she hugs me regularly and calls me "beautiful mama." She draws pictures of me in which I am always depicted as a glamorous lady, complete with ballgown, high heels, and fancy jewelry. She is fascinated with my belongings such as perfume, make-up, and jewelry. Little hands are forever re-arranging my things. She always wants her nails painted just like mine. The poor thing even believes I can sing.
What do I see when I look at myself? Not what she sees, I am sure of that. Growing up with various auto-immune conditions (and with children and adults alike making sure I knew that I was DIFFERENT and NOT NORMAL), I'm sure I had virtually no chance of developing a healthy sense of self-esteem. I can't look in a mirror and think, "Well, aren't you looking downright cute today?" It just won't ever happen. I see a chipped tooth, hair that is far too thin and uncooperative, a face that is growing older . . .
And don't even get me started on my weight.
I am careful not to say anything about my weight or my appearance in front of my daughter, though. The last thing I want to do is project my stuff onto her. However, I wonder if I could take it one step further like the blogger I mentioned. An excerpt:
"I don't want my girls to be children who are perfect and then, when they start to feel like women, they remember how I thought of myself as ugly and so they will be ugly too. They will get older and their breasts will lose their shape and they will hate their bodies, because that's what women do. That's what mommy did. I want them to become women who remember me modeling impossible beauty. Modeling beauty in the face of a mean world, a scary world, a world where we don't know what to make of ourselves."
"Look at me, girls!" I say to them. "Look at how beautiful I am. I feel really beautiful, today."
I owe it to my daughter to think I'm at least half as beautiful as she thinks I am. I need to get this right, this parenting business. This business of being a mama to a little girl. My hope is that I'm raising an amazing kid who will someday become a spectacular adult. Nothing would make me happier than to know that 60 years from now, when I am long gone, she will still walk her sassy walk . . . hand on hip, beret on head. And that she will never have doubted her beauty.