We've all heard, been told, and even said ourselves that real beauty isn't skin deep. When you are 9 years old it's hard to believe that. Especially when you are teased at school and always picked last. As a mother I see all my daughter's virtues AND all her faults. I'm not naive enough to believe that she is perfect and can do no wrong. I do however know that sometimes she comes home from school in tears. She says she hates herself and wishes she was never born. That kind of feeling doesn't come from no where. Even if she tends to be dramatic and exaggerate, the feelings are still there. Something has to be going on to make her feel this way.
This morning Abby went jogging with her dad. She tripped, skinned both knees and wasn't able to stop her mouth from hitting the concrete. A huge chunk of her tooth broke off. She is in pain, bleeding, and her first thought is that she doesn't want anyone to see her and make fun of her. She just wants to hide.
I completely know how she felt. In high school I was cooking bacon and the grease in the pan exploded and splashed all over my face giving me severe burns on my face and neck. I didn't want to go to school either. I had to go so I wore a sweatshirt that I pulled up to my eyes to hide myself. Fortunately, I had amazing friends who didn't tease me or make me feel stupid. They hugged me and loved me and made me feel safe. By the end of the day the sweatshirt wasn't hiding my face and I was actually smiling.
I worry the same won't happen for my Abby. She said a girl at school had surgery on her hands so everyone started calling her "frog". Abby said, "Mommy, what if they all call me "hippopotamus"? I had an idea to take some photos of her (it's always my first thought!!) because I wanted her to see how beautiful she still looked. At first, she just hid.
After a lot of coaxing I got her to look at me, but you can see the pain in her eyes.
She said it hurt too much to smile since her lip is cut but I asked her to think of something that makes her happy and told her how much I love her.
I showed her the above picture of herself and said, "Look how beautiful you still are, even with a chipped tooth." Her spirits immediately lifted. She started talking to me and even laughed as we walked back into the house.
I'm writing this with tears in my eyes though and they aren't happy tears. It's so hard to send these treasures of mine off into a world that can be so cruel. I know I can't protect her from it or keep her from being exposed to what's out there. I can control what she sees and hears when she is in my home and in my presence. I never underestimate the power of a photograph and use that to show her the parts of her I love the most inside and out. I know it makes her more confident every time she sees them. I can't stop all the mean kids in the world, but I can help her gain the confidence she needs to know who she is, what she believes, and that she is unconditionally loved.
Hopefully that is enough.