Thursday, April 18, 2013

What I want my daughter to learn from Dove

Jayci’s nightlight casts a yellow glow on her cheeks as I kick off my flip-flops and lay my coarse curls next to her flaxen tendrils on her pink princess pillowcase. Her eyes close, but flutter open occasionally to make sure I am still present. Her spine curves perfectly into the space I leave; her arms clutch her pink sock monkey whose stuffing escapes from rifts in legs and tail.

I listen as her breathing slows, evens, deepens. My own eyes close and I think about the video I re-posted on facebook earlier: a brilliant one by Dove. My eyes brim a little bit with tears, and my mind swells with hopes that she will always see herself as beautiful. That she will look in the mirror and see what I see: perfect porcelain skin, soft golden hair, brilliantly blue eyes framed by dark lashes and rounded pink cheeks. Button nose.


But then a sudden fear flashes through me. Because what if she grows up and looks more like the picture on the left than the one on the right? What am I saying about beauty and what matters when the whole premise lies in one face being more desirable and, daresay, valuable than the other?

Of course, of course, I always want Jayci to recognize her beauty, to treat herself gently, to love herself with a grace that covers flaws. Because heaven knows I have wasted (and still waste) more than my fair-share of time spent worrying about the extra layer of, ahem, insulation that sits on my midsection since Caden’s birth. Or the new creases in my forehead, and the dark circles under my eyes that speak of too many nights spent tossing and turning on this very princess pillowcase.
But I’m just not sure it’s enough for her to see herself as beautiful when beautiful still means a “thin face” and “pretty blue eyes.” Or when victory lies in a stranger not noticing the lines around her eyes; lines etched by years and laughter, by a life lived.

Somehow, impossibly, I pray instead that she will step outside of the whole construct. That she will believe fiercely in the beauty of her chocolate-skinned friend whose hand entwines with hers on the playground. That she will trace my laugh lines and dark circles and recognize the value in a life lived and fought through well.

That she will find beauty in the pale pink unfurling of cherry blossoms; but also in the dandelion sneaking impossibly through the cracked sidewalks lining our street. In the chippy paint door above our bed: the one whose story is written in layers of white and cream and turquoise. In the toothless old man who grins wide when he rides his bike slowly by our house twice a day, his overalls and cropped blue shirt as unchanging as his smile. In her brother’s rippled scar down his chest, and her “big brother’s” gold patch growing out of his twisted hair. That she will recognize that our dents and scars and wrinkles only add to the beauty of our story, because our pain and stretching widens our capacity for joy and deepens the beauty of our journey.

Jayci’s fingers unfurl from mine, and she relaxes into sleep; and I pray she will relax into life without fearing or bending to the constraints and demands that media and a world try to place on her. That she will be more concerned with being brave and kind, gentle and forgiving, than she is with what she sees in the mirror. That the primary lesson she learns from the Dove video is the importance of extending grace: both to those around her, and to herself. That in a world obsessed with physical beauty, she will stand out as one who sees the loveliness in each person she encounters. One who treats those around her with dignity and grace and love, helping them to see their own beauty with startling clarity and open-eyed joy.

5 comments:

  1. I don't think you have anything to worry about. Well, then again, maybe a little. Because, honestly, what girls do you know that really look in the mirror and think DARN, I look good. It's a rare girl that does that. I hope that by you letting her know her smile makes her beautiful, her love for others, and her kindness, that she will grow up to know she is beautiful inside and out.

    You are so good at these deep thought posts. Good for you Becca. I am glad you are writing and sharing what you love.

    And by the way, YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL.

    I have never seen and undereye circle or extra pounds on you. It's hard to imagine. You would be beautiful no matter what drawing you look like.

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  2. Way to go, Becca! I love this line: "That the primary lesson she learns from the Dove video is the importance of extending grace: both to those around her, and to herself."

    I'm not sure Dove is selling is grace, but I think that video has sparked several conversations/critiques on expanding the idea of beauty beyond what the folks in the video are actually saying.

    Thanks for this thoughtful response!

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  3. Beauty full! Thank you for sharing your heart and encouraging mine!

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  4. AH, THANK YOU!

    I've felt like a crazy lady lately because that video BUGS me to no end! I mean, the general idea is good, but come on ladies. Beauty is not what makes us worth while. There's more to strive to than feeling beautiful all the time.

    I constantly cringe when Josie hears "you're so beautiful" all the time. I want her to have high self esteem, but I try to follow up those comments with, "oh, and she is SO smart, she is really good at math and so nice to her brother!" Beauty fades, I want her value to go much deeper than her skin.

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  5. I complain everyday about the bags under my eyes. I complain every day about the frown lines. I look in the mirror and all I see is my son. I see my son laying in a hospital bed at Children's Hospital for 11 months with brain cancer. I see him a few weeks latter paralyzed. Not being able to walk. I see the suffering he had to go through before the Lord took him home. I beg my husband to please let me have plastic surgery to get rid of the bags and the frown lines. My family hears it every day.

    My son in law came over a few nights ago. He took me over to the computer and had me sit down and watch this Dove video. I watched. I cried. He told me that I am the only one who sees those bags and those lines. He said he understands that I have been through a lot. But that what I see, is not there.

    I think what I see is pain. A mother that is heartbroken. My eyes see myself so much different then everyone else sees me.

    I think this video is amazing. I think we all see ourselves through things that have happened in our life. Not through the beauty that is there. I have always believed that if I could erase those bags that I see then it would erase the bad memories. Seriously. Weather they are there are not. Nothing will erase those memories. Truthfully. Do I really want to? No! I don't. Those memories were all part of a journey. A journey set forth by God. To Him, I give all the glory.

    Beauty is not on the outside. It is on the inside. If we are a beautiful person within. We will be beautiful on the outside as well.

    Thank you for sharing this. Again, I love reading your blog. I have to say this though...She really is a beautiful child!! :)

    God Bless,
    Cathy

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