inner beauty

Oh, beauty.

I have written about the topic on these pages before. Beauty is more complicated than I would like for it to be, but it is something that we all have to handle. Parents in particular. I try (and try and try) to ensure The Kidling understands that beauty is, in fact, superfluous. That other things–that all other things–are more important. We praise her for important characteristics: kindness, hard work, ingenuity, generosity, strength, courage. I am so adamant about praising her for commendable behaviors and attributes that it occurred to me last week that I could not recall the last time I had shared glowing words about her appearance.

Well, other than growling, “I love your face!” at her. But we all know that “I love your face” is really a commentary on the fact of her face. I love that she has a face. I love that she is. Always.

Well, almost always.

Knowing that I have likely been remiss in completely excluding flattering words about her physical appearance, I complimented her. But I did it carefully.

“Kidling, I know this isn’t what’s important, but you are a beautiful girl,” I told her. She glowed, and I knew that she knew that beauty is more important to the outside world than I let on. I am going to pretend for a moment that this isn’t a result of my not-infrequent primping.

Or the fact that The Kidling said to me last week (in response to my delay getting ready one morning), “Yeah, Mom. It’s not like your hair has to be perfectly fancy.”

As such, when she began to carry on about what makes a person good tonight on the way home, I was delighted to hear her say, “It’s who you are that counts!”

“That’s right,” I gloated agreed. “You mean on the inside?”

“No,” she replied, “on the outside.”

Back to the drawing board.

kidling compliments

Those of you who read kidlingville regularly (all four of you) know that The Kidling has been working through some concerns lately. It turns out The Mama was right to be worried about kindergarten and the myriad changes it brings.

Now that I have gratuitously linked to my most recent angsty blogposts, I shall continue.

The Dada and I have been asking careful questions after school lately in order to get as much information as we can about The Kidling’s day without triggering a pity party. As anyone who has regular contact with six-year-olds knows, pity parties are second only to birthday parties in popularity.

So we tread lightly.

This evening yielded some positive information. It turns out The Kidling and her nemesis played together today! And he was kind! Well… kind enough. He did tell my charmingly-coiffed daughter that she had a bald head, but she accepted his excuse explanation that he was referring to his own hairless noggin, rather than calling her names.

The Kidling, it seems, is learning to choose her battles.

Bedtime approached, and we reviewed her day.  Because things had gone far better than usual, I wanted to reinforce that she is a fighter. As I kissed my dear child on the forehead, I told her that we all have rough patches. We will have difficult days and tough weeks, but we survive and get better as a result. “You are strong, you are kind, and you will be okay,” I reassured her.

As a slow smile spread across her face, she returned the compliment. “You are big, you are never late for anything, and you are gorgeous. And so am I.”

The Kidling has returned.

pragmatism

The Mama is a closet vanity case. I hate that beauty matters so much but it does. Matter, that is.

While these facts remain true, I don’t talk about such things with The Kidling. Do I exercise regularly? Yes. Do I wear nice clothes? Yes. Do I take the five minutes for make-up? Yes. Do I comb my hair? Occasionally. Do I bathe?

Well… usually.

Ultimately, she sees what she chooses to notice, and I answer her questions candidly as they arise. I never really know what all The Kidling picks up on, but I wholeheartedly believe that if I want her to live an authentic life, then I should perform my identity in the way that comes naturally.

I was grabbing a pair of earrings one recent day when The Kidling informed me she had no interest in piercing her ears. “It’s more about how you feel, and safety, and how you’re scared, than beauty,” she said. She went on, mentioning a friend in her kindergarten class whose ears are pierced. The Kidling told me with great gravity that her friend Blanca is more concerned about beauty before bringing the discussion to a close with the assertion, “I’m for safety.” 

Remember that, wee one. Neither needles, nor heels, nor Spanx are more important than you keeping that tiny body happy.

ego check

Alice: Mom, your face is red.

The Mama: All of it?

Alice: Just part. The rest of it looks like a normal person.

on beauty… or not

Confession: when I started this post, it was going to be funny. Nothing earth-shattering. You wouldn’t have spit out your lunch. You wouldn’t have peed your pants. You might not even have laughed out loud. But it was to be typical kidlingville fare.

As I was getting ready for work Tuesday morning, the Kidling looked at me and said, “You don’t look very pretty.” I was creating an opening and coming up with the perfect one-liner to close the post when I decided that wasn’t the post I wanted to write today.

You all know that story that has been making the rounds?  The one about mothers telling our daughters we are beautiful? It is every bit as amazing as folks are saying. If you haven’t had a chance to read it, then you can check it out here. Amanda King writes poignantly and with truth that lies in the depths of every mother’s soul.

Even in its general amazingness, I can’t subscribe to her thesis wholesale. Why? It is complicated.

For one thing, I don’t want physical beauty to be a priority for The Kidling. I get that Amanda King wasn’t saying that. I get that she is facing the reality of being female in this world where beauty is prized. And I get that she clearly has her priorities straight with regard to raising strong, thoughtful daughters.

Perhaps her age has something to do with it. She is young enough that I prefer her to use “beautiful” as an adjective to modify sunset, or song, or flower. A beautiful story. A beautiful painting. But not a face. I don’t want her worrying about that at four years old. Not yet.

Another reason? I am beautiful. Not crazy beautiful. Not model beautiful. Not breathtaking. But pretty enough that I don’t spend time worrying about it. And do you know what? It just isn’t that big of a deal. It is a convenience. A free pass. A smile and a held door once a month or so that might not otherwise be held. It might not be fair, but it is reality. Which is why it doesn’t define me.

The “me” I want The Kidling to identify when she thinks of me during her childhood is the one who is strong, loving, and smart. Maybe even sort of funny. An occasional pain in the ass and an irrational stickler when it comes to her dinner table behavior. A mother who would never raise a hand to her, and who apologized when she raised her voice (unless, of course, she totally deserved a grouchy mama due to her general stinkeriness at that given moment). I want her to recall her mother as fun and passionate, if flawed. And a mother who loved the shit out of her.

But beautiful? My soul, I should hope. My shell, I’m less concerned with. And I hope upon hope that she judges herself by that same standard.

happy, circa 2009

Alice + Sticks + Gorgeous weather = Happy, circa 2009.

Thankfully these three things still yield pure joy. Some day our life will be more complicated. For now, we embrace the simple life.

on beauty

I have previously mentioned The Kidling’s propensity toward honesty. Typically, said honesty falls into the “total” category, yet it occasionally crosses over to “brutal.” Please, no comments about what it is going to be like when she turns 14. I don’t want to hear it.

La la la la la la la la. I’m not listening. Hmmm hm hm hm hm hm. La la la la la la. What? Oh, you’ve stopped? Good. Don’t try that again.

Where was I? Oh yes, honesty. This story refers to the brutal variety. You probably saw that coming.

First, a confession: I really like to look in the mirror at The Kidling and The Mama. A lot. I pick her up, find a mirror, squish my face next to hers, and stare. I know it is a little weird and a lot narcissistic, but with my limited understanding of genetics and biology, I am forever amazed by all of the people I see in her tiny, perfect face. The Mama and The Dada, sure, but also myriad uncles, aunts, grandparents, cousins… her face is like a little window into our past.

And, well, I admit it: we are just so darned cute together. There’s that, too.

But Alice sees it differently. Just a few days ago, she was pondering her mouth. I have no idea why, so don’t ask. Whilst considering their beauty, she declared of her lips, “Mine are like red strawberries. Yours are like… like… pink strawberries that aren’t very healthy.”

Thanks, babe. Consider the ego checked.

beauty is in the eye of the beholder

It has been unseasonably beautiful in Iowa the past few weeks. We decided to take advantage of it, so we walked The Kidling to school this morning. Along the way, Alice pointed out a house that has previously built unique snow sculptures and told me, “I think that’s the house where they built the loooovely snow toilet!”