A Letter to My 11 Year Old Daughter

You got home from school the other day, pulled out your school photo (the one with the stock elephant gray background) and observed, “Oh! I look so pretty…”

My head swiveled from whatever nonsense distracted me at that moment and I breathed in the air of self-confidence you had just deposited in the room.  You actually used the word “pretty.”  Not “weird” or “ugly” or “awkward” or even “okay,” but “pretty.”

I mean, yes. Just yes! This is it. I wondered how I could freeze the moment and sear that casual, authentic, unabashed self-confidence into your heart and mind for all time.  (Come on. There must be an app for that!)

Your youthful eyes are so clear and pure.  You care little for embellishements like make-up or hairspray.  The media’s portrayal of long-legged, buxomy, perfectly symmetrical, photo-shopped women as the standard for beauty has not infiltrated your belief system.  I pray it never does.

However, chances are, if you’re anything like me or so many other women in this world, a curtain of self-doubt will cloud your grown up eyes at some point.

Smack in the middle of your 11th year of life, you straddle the fine line between being a child and becoming a young lady.  You relentlessly beg me to let you read The Fault in Our Stars because “EVERYONE else has read it,” yet you are still able to spend hours dressing dolls with your little sister.  You cuddle up on the couch with me while we watch TV, yet your stare can be cold as ice if you feel I’ve unfairly judged you in some way.

I know some of those harder moments are rites of passage into adolescence.  I don’t love them, but I love you.  Honestly, I remember reacting the same way to my mom back in the day.  But even on my best day, I’m not sure I ever looked at a picture of myself and declared myself pretty.

You could care less what boys think of you right now.  And you don’t try to garner attention by becoming something you’re not.  What can we do to preserve this wonderful outlook on life?

As I age I can’t help but wonder where all these crows feet came from.  I let out a heavy sigh of defeat when I can no longer button my “skinny jeans.”  I’ve been known to drop a dollar (or fifty!) on the latest “lose weight fast” technique.  I crop photos to sit at just the right angle.

And, why do I do this?  For whom do I do this?

I honestly don’t know.  I’m pretty sure my friends don’t care what my bathroom scale reads.  Dad doesn’t seem to mind either.  In fact, I’m fairly certain he thinks confidence is just about the sexiest thing I can put on!

Thank you for that carefree response to your school picture.  Those few words have bolstered my resolve to stand strong in the face of cultural messages about beauty.  Perhaps that is one way we can tackle this counterfeit message together – head on.

I am your mom, the one who is supposed to be modeling such things for you and yet, you, my dear, have inspired me.

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