Thursday, January 9, 2014

Things I want my daughter to know before I forget them (what with the red wine and all).

Dear Sweet, Squishy Daughter of Mine,

I need you to know something. And I have to share it now, else I risk forgetting when it really matters. 

There are a lot of people, females in particular, who will be sending you messages across your lifetime. Trend setters. People who think they know what's wrong with the world, how to close the gender gap, and people who think they know how to fix everything. 

Let's get specific. Lately, there have been extensive discussions, blog posts and campaigns around outward appearance. In one camp, people want you to know every corner of your body, of your face is beautiful no matter what. (It is.) They want you to unlearn how to spot physical characteristics that females have been trained to see as imperfections. This is, without a doubt, a beautiful way of thinking.

To accomplish this "flawless" vision, there are a number of instructional blog posts I can reference that will help me convince you to not care about your appearance because your "full self" is so much more than that. In fact, several people have outlined ways for me to compliment you on your skills, talents and accomplishments exclusively without mentioning your outward appearance at all. Some even ask me to tell other people not to compliment you on your appearance in any way, shape or form. 

And then, there's another unrelated campaign. It's a monster-sized movement that will encourage you to be physically active, eat natural foods and be healthy, avoid obesity and "get out and move." This message will be directly targeted at you throughout your youth. 

These two very significant messages are not necessarily conflicting, but to a young person, they may be confusing. Do I love myself the way I am, or do I need to go sweat it out to be right with the universe?

So, when you are of the age where all of those messages make sense to you in one way or another, here are some things I want you to know. I'm going to be real with you. I'm not going to try to come up with some crafty mind trick that I think will shape you into becoming any more excellent than I know you already are. So, here goes; let's get real.: 

1. Dare I say, sometimes it's nice to look "nice." Other times, it's great to not give a flying crap. It's my job to raise you as the intelligent person who can determine which times call for which ensemble. I will not encourage you to attend an interview in your favorite sweatpants nor will I encourage you to wear a suit for Saturday morning breakfast. Presentation is a part of life. And it's okay to embrace it.
2. Looking "nice" has exactly nothing to do with your physical body, features, etc. With a pair of slacks and a tie, Snuffleupagus can look "nice." When the occasion calls for a decent outward appearance, "nice" is all you need to do. 
3. When you look "nice," I'm probably going to tell you. Some "experts" would tell me not to. I, frankly, don't care. I love every single thing about you, and I can't hold back compliments of any sort. Be it smart, cute, witty, awesome. If you're it, I'm gonna tell you. 
4. While I'm in charge of getting you ready every day, I only care that you look "loved."Love can look like a lot of different things. In the winter, it can mean you look warm. Or it may mean that your hair isn't in knots. Or it could mean that, on a hot day, you look like you're dressed like a watermelon.  You're a reflection of my love. And I love you a freaking lot. 
5. This one's arguably most important: The ONLY thing that matters is how you feel about yourself. This may mean more to you when you get older. No ad campaign is going to tell you how to feel about yourself (unless I wrote it; then you will surely find it very convincing). Do not allow anyone or anything to affect how you feel about your body. Just make sure YOU freaking love it. If you have trouble thinking of things to love about it, please see me. I have a running list in my head at all times. If there is something you think you do not love, share it with me. We will make sure it's because YOU do not love it. Not because you think someone else will not love it. I will tell you you're wrong about every flaw you see for a number of reasons. We can see where the discussion goes from there.
6. Do things that make you feel great about yourself. When it comes to being active, don't follow trends or friends or whatever. Some people need to run a marathon to feel great. I only need to run for about 30 minutes to feel like I've done something spectacular. You are the only one who can determine what the standard is here. 
7. Do not rely on other people or other objects to make you feel great. They're simply unreliable. This is a little "cheese-factory" here, but it's a very simple truth: do things that make you feel great, do not rely on things to make you feel great. Helping someone who needs you, kicking butt on an assignment, reaching a goal, becoming an Olympian, whatever... This is about DOing things. Not having things. 
8. This list is not for girls. It is not for boys. It is for people. Your brother needs to know these as much as you do. But seeing as though everyone seems to be talking to girls specifically, I thought I'd intercept you before you can understand the messages you're receiving. 

I know I'll have plenty more. Unfortunately for you, I like to write, and by the time you're of age to read it, you'll have a lot to catch up on. So, to be continued. Love, Mom.

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