Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Skin Deep?

I've lived in this house for over nine years. And I seriously believe I can count on both hands the times I've stepped outside without makeup. I don't mean full on beauty-pageant stuff. I'm just talking a swipe of mascara and lip gloss. Still neurotic, though, right? Not walking to the mailbox until I've taken a quick look in the mirror? Dabbing on "a little something" before I go to the gym or the pool?

But this is important, now, because I'm raising a daughter.

A daughter who watches my every move and imitates my every action. One who often asks if her hair looks pretty "Like Sleeping Beauty's hair?" and begs to wear my lipstick and PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE could I curl her hair, just once?

However, here she is with a mother who isn't confident in my own beauty. A mother who sometimes counts my own worth in a number on the scale or how my hair behaves, instead of the paintings I made with Evie at the kitchen table yesterday or the books I read to Ethan very early in the morning or the times my heart throbs with love for my children.

My first instinct, when Evie asks "Do I look like Gabby from Desperate Housewives?" is to tell her just how beautiful she is. That her eyes are radiant and her hair is so pretty when it curls in the back and her little bow lips are the most perfect thing I've ever seen. I want her to know just how beautiful she is.

But I also want her to know how much more there is than looking beautiful. In this culture, we are so bombarded with images of beauty and sex and youth. And the sad thing is, it has soaked into my brain. Being pretty can feel better than being nice.

So how do I teach her that yes, she's beautiful. How do I teach her that, yet teach her not to care? I want her to be confident, but to know other things count more. I want Evie to think it's more important to love like Jesus, to be kind, to share things we have with others who don't have as much, to forgive. I want her to think it's more attractive to be smart and to dream big than to have shiny hair. When she's 20, I want her to be happy to have a healthy body and not just a body that looks good in a bikini.

I want her to BE beautiful, and not just look beautiful.

My own reality is warped, though. I know all the things on the inside count more. I know it. But I also feel so judged by my appearance. How do I teach her to be different?

And so I'm at a new place in my parenting journey. Teaching Evie NOT to be like me. Here's my first venture into "Do as I say, not as I do." I'm going to give it my best shot, and we'll know in about 15 years if I got it right!