She is beautiful with her wide dark eyes, hair that falls to her waist in golden hues. She is baby and girl still twined into one. She explores life like a locomotive, but stops to smell every flower. I am in awe that she is my daughter, we run, laugh, play chase, watch the clouds overhead, drink tea, and disappear into books for hours. When she calls for me to catch her, my arms stretch to hold her weight as she catapults herself into my waiting hands. There is no fear that I will miss, she has no sense of my failure. She is completely given to the surety that I will always be there.
I am the mother of a daughter. What she does not realize now is that I will fail, I will miss, I am fallible. Try as I might there will come a day that I do not live up to her hero worship. I watch her grow in this world and I know the pitfalls, the struggles that she will have to walk through. I know that one day she will pinch her stomach and tell me she is fat. One day she’ll cry because a boy has broken her heart. A friend will betray her confidence, and she will fall when she tries to run.
I realized recently, that each time I pull away from my husband, because I am not feeling thin, I am feeding her image of herself. I have long struggled with accepting myself, with being comfortable with how I look. Every time I stretch my skin back from my face and complain that I am ugly, little eyes are staring up at me. I wonder what I’m teaching my daughter if I cannot accept myself as I am. I don’t want any part in helping her hate herself. I’m tired of not liking what I see in the mirror.
I learned long ago that to love myself I must be as perfect as I can be. Instead I have felt like a constant failure, self hatred my only gain. As I am raising my daughter, I find that I am growing up myself. It must be done gently, with love, and here I am teaching myself acceptance. It is not in my jobs well done, but the things to which I give my all. It is not my face that makes me beautiful, but my love of others. It is not being thin that makes me feel good, but loving myself where I am at.
A little face stares up at me, and her hand curves in mine. We laugh and chase after a butterfly, skirts fly in the breeze, and we twirl as I catch her in my arms. My hands cup her face, “You are beautiful,” I whisper. Her eyes twinkle as she squeezes her arms around my neck. I am beautiful, too, but this I don’t have to tell her, I simply have to know it for myself. It is my knowing that will give her the freedom to believe it of herself. I am raising a girl and in so doing, I am raising myself.