“God does not live in a perpetual state of disappointment over who we are.”
~Becoming Myself, Stasi Eldredge
So why do we?
Why do we find so much to be disappointed about in ourselves?
And how can I mother my daughter well to love herself when I have not mastered that well inside my own heart?
We live in a world that bombards us with measuring sticks every day.
I cannot go through a grocery line without filling my eyes with headlines like
Best and Worst Beach Bodies
You Won't Believe Whose Butt This Is!
Bikini Body After Baby
How I Lost 30 Pounds Fast
I have to make a concerted effort NOT to let my eyes troll through the photos and headlines. Because my ass is not going to fall under the Best Beach Body category. And I had my kids years ago and still have not mastered the Bikini Body After Baby look. And the diet secrets on how to lose 30 pounds fast? I have bought those magazines promising diet secrets inside only to ALWAYS be disappointed with a tiny paragraph that tells me I need to inhale syrup, cayenne pepper, and lemon juice for two weeks straight or eat fish and broccoli for every meal.
Most of us fall short to airbrushed photos and diet plans that do not include birthday cakes for your kid and a movie treat surprise on a Friday night. Photos labeled "plus-sized model" make me want to crumble because that chick's upper thigh is the size of my forearm. And she is beautiful, but labeled....just so we all know what category she falls into. I don't know about you, but I don't want my girl learning to label herself.
This is not an easy thing to navigate.
And we don't get a manual when our daughters start to take notice of themselves in the mirror.
And we don't get a memo with the right response when they start saying things like, "my arms look chubby"...or "my hair never looks soft and silky"...
There is this fine and invisible and tricky line to tread between encouraging healthy habits, being honest, and talking real ... and, the other side of the line-- pushing them into operating under the standards and labels and categories of a world that will always leave them disappointed in themselves.
Niamh and I have had real conversations. The ones that drive me to tears and make her angry. I won't let her take the easy way out- the one where she is not responsible for her health and beauty... where it is easier to make excuses than to be proactive. I have made mistakes along the way. Somehow she has adopted an obsession with checking food labels for high fructose corn syrup and equates pepsi's with cancer. (So I know my own worries and preoccupations travel quite efficiently from my mind to hers, without trying to perpetuate those messages consciously.) Our kids pick up an amazing amount of info from us...and that can be scary or exciting, depending on how we treat ourselves.
We run. There is no excuse for not being a runner if you have no health reasons to prohibit it. That is just my personal opinion, and I know many will disagree. But we encourage the kids to run at least every other day. I do my best not to guilt them into it, because I want it to be something they value rather than loathe. But they also know that a half mile will only take about 0.4% of their day (I did the math to show them my point a long time ago), and if they cannot spend 0.4% of their day investing into their own health...than they are not choosing healthy things.
Niamh ran her half mile in 4:12 this week, which is awesome. I often feel like I am the one being motivated by her now. We find different workouts to try on the treadmill (it is winter, so that is our only option most days). She likes doing intervals. And sometimes she just walks. But she has learned to carve the time out herself, and I feel like that is a small victory in living healthy.
We have the real, more difficult talks about "chubby arms", finding jeans that fit, and silky hair. I hand her 2 pound weights...and tell her that jeans need a good booty to fill them out right...and that big, messy, wild hair is just as beautiful (more so in my opinion) than silky hair-commercial hair. We tell her she is lovely in every way. I realized (thanks to wisdom-filled husband) that when I make statements like "I am having a fat week" or "I need to lose 20 pounds" that my message is absolutely absorbed into her little heart. She doesn't see anything wrong with her mama. But if I constantly do, then she starts to see disappointments in herself. For NO reason. That is how girls work. Beauty matters to us, and we take a lot of cues from the world around us.
I stopped buying tabloid magazines this year. I have not even picked one up in the grocery checkout in forever...even just to flip through it. And I SO BAD wanted to this week. Kim Kardashian's backside was smack dab on the front and my first thought was let me flip to her photos and take a look...just to give myself a little hope. I chose to leave the magazine right where it was. I should not be measuring my flaws by the flaws of someone else. Just like I should not measure my value/beauty/worth by the photoshopped perfection of someone else. (side note, big booties rock. I like big butts and I cannot lie.)
Telling our girls they are beautiful is not enough. Mamas should believe that about themselves, too. Otherwise, the message will be lost in translation. We need to communicate honestly with our daughters about insecurities and healthy choices and responsibility. But we need to offer grace at every turn.
I want Niamh to see herself as Phil and I see her. She is breathtaking, perfectly complicated, too funny, beautiful, sparkly, smart, talented, gracious, loving, and filled with a remarkable love for Jesus. Phil makes it a priority to carve out time just for her- even if it is just a conversation at the kitchen table- so Niamh knows he values her deeply. If girls receive a lot of messages about beauty from their moms, they recieve those same messages - times a hundredfold- from their dads.
So we are handling beauty delicately and imperfectly...but trying our best. Honesty is essential. We do not want to blur reality for the sake of avoiding tough conversations. We do not believe in the standards of the world that make beautiful girls seem inadequate or reduce their identity to a mere dress size. We love how God made us, thick legs and big booties included. We choose to eat organic, and we like doughnut day at the bakery. We kiss our beautiful girl and high five her for the 4:12 half-mile just like we kiss and high five her when she says she needs a day off of running. I kid her that I might cut off her hair at night and steal it. I smack her on the booty and tease her about how cute she is in jeans. I lift "weights" with her sometimes and teach her proper form.
And sometimes I just stare at her pretty face when she is sleeping and kiss her forehead and whisper I love you's in her hair...scared and so humbly thankful that I get the opportunity to be her mama. The world has no label I would ever want more than that.
Just to be a good mama.
PS, Regan Giangrande You won the custom clock giveaway, babes!! Wahoo! Please email me to discuss your design.