Sweet, round cheeks. Beautiful skin. Precious red curls. Piercing green eyes.
I look at my 10-month old daughter and can’t help, though I am extremely biased, but admire what a beautiful little creature she is. I see glimpses of her dad in her eyes and her smile, and of my own baby-self in her funny little expressions and attitude. I’m her mom, and so to me, she is of course absolutely perfect.
Every morning when we finish our routine of changing her diaper and dressing her for the day, I stand her up, look into her eyes and say “Look at Kai! So strong. So smart. Ready to start her day!” I know that, now, at this age and stage of her life, she doesn’t understand what these brief affirmations mean. But I do.
Being a parent, albeit a new parent, presents so many challenges and decisions (real, and sometimes self-inflicted) from the moment our children are born. Bottle or breast? Screen time? Strict schedule? Pacifier? Those issues are ones we’ve navigated the best we can, and I admit, I feel pretty good about how we’ve done things so far.
But what haunts me, what I sometimes ponder when I wake in the middle of the night or when get lost in thought watching my baby at play, aren’t the parenting approaches or methods that are talked about so often. What worries me is how my daughter will see herself, as a young girl and as a young woman, and the responsibility I have to encourage her to be confident, proud of who she is, and to have a strong enough sense of self to withstand anything doubts that life might throw her way.
Looking ahead to what she will see and be exposed to in the coming years, I’m filled with hope as well as fear, and to be honest, I’m slightly overwhelmed. The social media-dominated world we live in, overflowing with influencers, celebrities, and a whole lot of photoshop, creates a pretty unattainable picture of what women should look like and how they should present themselves. I know, no matter how closely we monitor her internet access or how often I tell her she is so much more than her appearance, that she will create ideas for herself of who she is, what she looks like, and where she falls in the universe of attractiveness. Will she be fair to herself?
Will she be confident enough to say, “I am who I am?” Will she aspire to look like the “ideal” images she’s inundated with, or will she embrace her body and take pride in it? Will she obsess over her features, or will she love what makes her “her?”
I guess my real fear is, will I have done all that I could have to help her see all that she has so much more to offer – her character, her strengths, and her heart?
I have plans. Given that she’s not quite one-year old, all I really can do is plan. Keep telling her how great she is as she stands so proudly on her changing table every morning. Applaud her when she accomplishes feats using her mind, no matter how great or small. Encourage and demonstrate kindness, and preach the importance of graciousness and gratitude. Show her that working hard can help her to achieve so many things. And of course, do tell her she’s beautiful, inside and out.
I will do all of this. I will do my very best. But will it be enough?
I hope so.