I really debated on whether or not to share this. I of course got my daughters approval. This is real life. These are things we go through and moments in motherhood that are soul crushing. I’ve been fighting back tears for days as I debated this, but it’s important.
Thursday I picked up my daughter from school. She had gotten her school pictures back and I was so excited to see them. It wasn’t just the fact that I knew they were going to be the cutest pictures ever. It wasn’t that she actually let me curl her hair or the forest green shirt she wore that made her blue eyes pop. No it was the small step back to normalcy. There was no spring pictures and school has only been in person for a few weeks now. Every step back to normalcy makes me happy. I was right, her pictures are the cutest ever, but it did not go over like I thought it would.
As my daughter got in the car and I was excited to see her pictures, she told me they were terrible, but she won’t be taking retakes. She then told me all the reasons why she hated the pictures. In other words, she completely tore herself apart. The little bumps on her nose and forehead. The way her glasses look on her face. The small pimple on her lip. The double chin. There wasn’t a thing she liked about her picture or herself. It was like she ripped my heart out and stomped on it. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to sit there and listen to. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I fought back tears the whole drive home.
It was a few hours later before I addressed what had happened on the drive home. She left me speechless. I had no idea what to say. Every time I tried to think of how to handle this situation, I had to fight back tears. I was heartbroken that she would ever feel this way. Heartbroken that I missed the signs. Heartbroken that I didn’t know what to say. If it had been anyone else, I would’ve hyped them up immediately. For some reason this felt different. She didn’t need a reminder that she was beautiful, strong, brave, smart or anything else. No she didn’t need a reminder, she just needed to know WHY. I knew why, but my reasons why aren’t her reasons.
As I was trying to figure out the right thing to say and how to handle this, my son came home. I mouthed I needed his help and formed a heart with my hands before saying out loud, ‘sis got her school pictures back today.’ They might not always get along, but he came in and absolutely amazed me. He asked where the pictures were and when I showed him he hyped her up. Told her how cute the pictures were. How she’s the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen. He took the bar and raised it for any man that will ever be in her life. He said all the right things and had her glowing. He stepped up in a time when he knew she needed him. It was beautiful.
Now it’s time to get real. I told my daughter it made me sad that she doesn’t like herself. That she doesn’t see what everyone else sees. Then I asked her to tell me one thing she doesn’t like about herself. My face bumps. I asked her what she could do to change that? She shrugged. I told her a good skincare routine and explained that as she gets older her skin changes and even though she didn’t have to wash her face everyday before, it’s important to do it now. We set out to wash our faces together every morning and night. Then I asked her again. For everything she said that could be changed, we set a plan to make that happen. Don’t like your glasses, we can get new ones. Don’t like your hair color, we can dye it if you really want to. Think your teeth are crooked, we can get you braces if you want.
I continued asking her. For everything she said she didn’t like, I told her about all the things I struggled to love about myself. You don’t like your nose? Did you know I didn’t like mine either? Then I realized my nose is awesome. There’s none like it. It helps me breath, smell flowers, smell the cake baking at nana’s house, and so many other things. Sure it’s a little big, but it’s mine. You don’t like your smile? I didn’t like mine either. I thought it looked weird and hated that it showed my crooked teeth. But you know what, I learned to love it. The way it shows my happiness. The way it invites people in to say hi. The way it makes others happy. You don’t have to love everything about yourself, but there’s some things you can’t change, so you learn to love them and you love them for you.
I then went on to tell her how I struggled to love myself because others told me I shouldn’t. How it’s hard to sometimes love things about yourself that you don’t like or that other people don’t like. I also told her everyone has these feelings sometimes and that’s okay. It’s important to not stay in that little hole and remember all the reasons why you should love yourself. All the reasons why you’re beautiful and perfect in every way. That I know it’s hard, but it’s possible to love the parts of yourself you really don’t want to. I told her to look in the mirror and tell herself why she loves everything about herself. My son jumped in and started naming all the things he likes about her before putting his whole hand over her face and saying I love all of this.
I feel like I failed her. I have always told her she’s beautiful, smart, talented, brave, strong, and perfect in every way. I wanted her to know she’s beautiful inside and out. I tried to find a balance between the inside and outside because I didn’t want her to think her looks defined everything about her. I think in my attempts, I focused too much on the inside and not enough on the outside. Sometimes as parents we don’t see we need to change our tactics until something big like this happens. This age has proved to be really hard for her and I know it’s only going to get worse.
I also think my making small comments here and there about my own body are making things worse. I don’t even notice I’m doing it most of the time. We live in a society where nonchalantly saying something like my big ass or my big thighs is so normalized that we say it without even realizing we say it. I recently put on 10 pounds. I’m happy about it because I needed to put on some weight, but my body looks different. I’m learning to love it, but it’s a process and a long one at that. We tear ourselves down way too often and do it so nonchalantly that it’s become the norm.
We need a change. We need to learn to love ourselves and everything that comes with that. Our bodies are all different shapes and sizes. We need to stop putting ourselves and others down. We need to stop nonchalantly saying things about our bodies like it’s normal. We need to love our bodies for what they are and what they are capable of. We need to be better and do better.