I’ve Started Telling My Daughters

I rarely find myself attractive.  My hair is frizzy, my boobs are saggy (thank you 100+ pounds of extra weight and breast-feeding two children), my back and sides have fat rolls (that on men are, for some reason, called “love

A painting of Maria Anna with two of her siste...

A painting of Maria Anna with two of her sisters (Princesses Sophie and Ludovika). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

handles”), I have a large red mark on the skin just above my eye, my thighs rub together when I walk (there’s a hilarious Mark Lowry sketch about one of his elementary teachers who had this problem, but it’s not so funny when it’s me), my fingers and toes are pudgy, I almost always have bags under my eyes, and my top lip disappears when I grin or laugh.

The silver lining?  Without any lessons or training or even any YouTube videos, I can belly dance! All I have to do is jump…

Since I was a preteen I’ve felt fat, ugly, and generally “less than” most other girls.  No, this isn’t a discourse on how the media ruins the self-image of females everywhere (though I do believe that); it is, rather, an exposition on how I play a very important role (in a very simple way) in how my daughters see themselves for life.

I’m fairly certain I’ve said something like this in front of my 3-year-old daughter: “Well I’m not cute, but you are!” or something to that effect.

After reading a blog a friend of mine shared with me today, I feel awful for saying that to my daughter, and will be VERY careful not to say it – or anything like it – again in the future.  I’m sure it confused her.  To her, I’m perfect.  I’m beautiful.  I’m her mama, and there’s no one like me in the whole world.  No one can hold a candle to me in her mind.  But I just told her I’m not cute.  That she’s attractive but I’m not.  How can this be?  Are big girls not cute?  Just little girls?  When does the transformation from “cute” to “not cute” take place?  When will she cross that line?

Well, in my eyes – never.  But if I continue to express to her my distaste for my own physical appearance, she will begin to believe that I’m truly not attractive.  That there’s something different about grown up women and they aren’t cute like little girls.  And if she grows up with that idea, when she realizes she’s grown up, what is she going to think?  That she’s still cute?  Likely not.  “Mama said she wasn’t cute, so now that I’m all grown up like her, I must not be cute, either.  Big girls must not like themselves because they’re ugly.”

No, no, no, and NO!  I do NOT want any part in my daughters growing up to think they aren’t attractive once they cross into womanhood.  And why would I want them to suddenly agree with me that I’m not perfect and beautiful?  Why would I want to shatter their glorified image of me?  They are the only people in the world who see me in all of my horribleness – my impatience, my awful morning bed-head, my short temper, my obsession with perfect grammar and my love for garlic – and still think I’m perfect.

Last night when I got home from work I kicked off the red heels I’d worn to the office that day, and sat down to feed Miss Bennett.  As I sat there spooning pureed carrots mixed with baby oat cereal into her eager mouth, Little Miss came over, carrying my shiny red heels in one hand and her sparkly dress-up shoes in the other.

“Mommy, put these on,” she requested.  “We’re princesses!”

I obliged (and those who know me know I’m not the princess type), and sat there discussing “princess issues” with her until Miss Bennett was done eating.  By the time I cleaned up the baby and put everything away, Little Miss was distracted with a book, so I sneaked down the hall to my room and shut the door.  Opening my closet door, I pushed aside my jackets and dresses to get to the items I never use – the ones hanging in the back of the closet, covered in extra-long plastic bags.

Rifling through the hangers, I found the one I wanted: A royal blue formal gown, strapless, with a sparkling brooch pinned to the side, holding a swoosh of gauze-like fabric across the front in an elegant drape. I slipped into the dress and glanced at myself in the mirror.  It had been a year and a half since I wore this last (at my sister’s wedding), and it was the only formal thing I’d worn in years.  Then I put my shiny red heels back on (so what if they didn’t match?) and walked down the hall, loving the way the train made a whispering sound on the carpet as I went.

At the end of the hallway, I called to Little Miss.  “Come see!  I have my princess dress on!”

She dropped her book and ran to me, stopping short when she came around the corner.  For what seemed like ages she stared at me, her eyes huge, taking in this beautiful blue princess dress she never knew her mommy owned.  Suddenly she snapped out of her trance and ran past me into her room.

“Mommy, I want to wear my princess dress, too!”

For the rest of the evening, we were princesses – dresses, heels, and our very own cars (well, hers was a train).  We were princesses at a cafe, princesses singing and dancing, princesses at the park, and even sick princesses who needed a doctor and (according to Little Miss) several “shots.”

Last night, I felt beautiful.  It’s what my daughter has been telling me for months now – ever since she started on this dress-wearing, pink-and-purple-loving kick: If you say you’re a princess, you are one.  You’re beautiful, you’re perfect – you‘re royalty.  And no one – NO ONE – is going to tell you otherwise.  Because you’re a princess.

And you’re beautiful.

So from now on, I’m going to make it a point to mention to my children when I feel particularly cute (it’s rare, but it does occasionally happen).  I want them to know that I can feel good about myself – that grown women are beautiful, too, and that pint-sized girls aren’t the only princesses in the world.

Because I’m beautiful.  And they are, too.  And I never want them – even for a second – to doubt the truth in that.

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