Beauty. A lighthearted word that should evoke feelings of peacefulness, harmony, and pleasing. Though well intentioned, the word misses its mark in society. Or, more truthfully, society misses its mark with the word. Full of clichés and impossibilities, the word has been the culprit of lifelong internal struggles. Wars with an ideal. As a mother of girls, the word is no less intimidating.
Our children are born perfect. No matter the circumstances, the delivery, or the complications, to mothers, our children are born perfect. We watch them grow into their unique selves and delight in their adorable stages. With a mother’s eye we embraces their quirks. Their personality and physical quirks that make them the person that they are. Their beauty is readily visible to us, inside and out.
As they grow, though, we release them from our shelter. Each year, just a little more. And with each small release, we know that they are going into a world that won’t always see them the way that we do. We are acutely aware that their beauty may not always be as readily seen others or by them, as it is to us. So we try to counteract it. We ban Barbies. We encourage gender-neutral toys. We are wary of the color pink. We involve them in sports. We want them to combat the societal ideal and be happy with themselves. We want this because we’re women ourselves and we’ve combated it our whole lives.
In the throes of my daily “you are beautiful inside and out” campaign with my own girls, I wonder, how will they know what beauty is when it isn’t definable even to me. We say no Barbies because they’re blonde, they’re too skinny, and their breasts are too large. Society says they’re pretty, but we’re offended. We say they can like blue too. They don’t have to be a boy to enjoy it. Society says they should like pink most and that they look good in it. We say no matter what their body shape they are perfect and meant to be that way. Society promotes a perfect 100-pound figure. Different messages for a word that is defined too many different ways. It’s a formidable presence to combat because we know as hard as we work to instill a healthy sense of self, society and their peers will always provide them with a different message.
What is a mother to do then? Throwing our hands up in defeat isn’t an option. The cynical mom will say there is nothing you can do, tending to revolt against society perhaps to the extreme. Angry at its perception of beauty. The trendy mom follows the norms set out for women. Mirrors and fashion are embraced at an early age in excess. The optimistic mom makes note to add a positive spin to each outward message of beauty her daughter encounters, usually at an unreasonable amount. Neither approach is right and neither approach is wrong. We attack the world with our own lens created by our own struggles. My hope for myself in my own parenting is that I am able to shift my focus off of what my girls might experience and on to what I feel about the word myself. Danger lies in what we don’t acknowledge. A grimace at your reflection in the mirror. Our longing reference to the skinny jeans we won’t fit into again this year. The scowl at the mention of bathing suit season. Just as much as our children are perfect to us, we are perfect to our children. Subtle messages of our imperfections of ourselves that will be the loudest message of #beauty… Click To Tweet