Today my kids ran up to me, their eyes dancing with excitement.
"Mama" my daughter spluttered, "I found an acorn! We are going to dig the mud and grow an acorn tree!" she announced,pointing at her baby brother.
With every word, her tongue made an 'ssssssssss' sound at the end as the air swished out from the gap where her two front teeth used to be.
She gave me a huge toothless smile.
I laughed and hugged her tight and said 'You are so beautiful'. She smiled wider, ''Mama you always think that'' and then bounced out to grow the acorn tree, with my two year old son bouncing in tow.
It's funny, ever since she has lost her teeth, whenever I see her smile, my heart melts.
I have truly not seen a more beautiful smile, as one with gaps in it.
When she lost her first tooth, she asked me ''Do you think I look weird?''
"NO!" I said, "Why?"
"I don't know" she responded, "but tell me, do you think I look weird?"
I told her she looked even more beautiful than before. And she believed me with the unflinching faith that only a child has in his mother's words.
I have told her every single day of her life, even before she understood words; she is beautiful.
Someone told me once that I should not tell her that. That it will put ideas in her head. That girls should not have any ideas in their heads about how good they are, because God knows what kind of husband and in-laws they will find.
So according to that lady, girls should be brought up without self-worth? So that if their future family does not give them respect or praise they don't know any better and therefore live in ignorant bliss?
It is strange but even in this day and age, people are more than happy to lavish their sons with praise but it is not okay to tell your daughter she is beautiful. We are still raising daughters with this thought in the back of our heads that they exist to please and praise others. And that they don't deserve the same in return.
I passionately believe we all need to tell our daughters that they are beautiful. Not better. Not lesser. Just beautiful in their own way, exactly the way they are.
I grew up thinking I am ugly.
I hated my nose. I hated my teeth. I hated the two lumps on the sides of my cheeks which later became cheekbones. As I grew older, I hated my figure. I hated my lips. I even hated my index finger. I think all my life there has been one body part at least which I obsessed over and hated until I found fault with another one. I pretty much spent the years growing up wishing I looked like Cinderella. Once I realized I would never turn blonde I started to pray, not wish, but pray to God, that I would start looking like Belle from Beauty and the Beast. Or at least Jasmine from Aladdin because come on, that should be easier for God,because of my dark hair and olive complexion. I honestly don't remember when I eventually gave up on that prayer but thankfully at some point, I accepted what I looked like and made peace with it.
The first time I believed I was beautiful was when I married my husband. That was, really, a long time coming. I do not want my daughter to wait 20 something years to believe she is beautiful exactly how she is.
My daughter is growing up amongst real life Cinderellas. She is 1 of 4 brunettes in a class of 15 girls. The rest of them are all blondes. With blue eyes. And white skin.
She has asked me a few times why her hair is dark and her arms are brown, but her friends are white and their hair is yellow. I told her because God has made her that way and that she is different. And different is beautiful. I told her we all want to be different because if we all looked the same, that would not be fun. That seemed to satisfy her. Being six, she usually believes whatever I tell her. Perhaps at 16 it will not be so easy to placate her.
That is why I started early. For I wish I had been told all my life that I was beautiful.
Because I am.
Not because of how I look, but because this is who I am and everyone is beautiful in their own way. Everyone has the right to feel beautiful and to know it.
So go ahead, tell your daughter. She is the most beautiful creature you ever saw. She will believe you. And while you are at it, tell your son that too, I started when mine was a day old.
As I went to see the acorn tree which had apparently already started to grow tiny branches in the mud where my kids had buried it 20 minutes ago, my son brought a rolly polly to me. His face streaked with mud and his hair sticking up with sweat, the last rays of sun lighting up his excited face, he squealed ''Wook Mama!Wolly polly! ''
''Mama'' my daughter breathed, looking at him, "Isn't he the 'most' cutest son you ever had!"
"Yes he is sweetie…yes he is."